Ballmer: 70% Of The Time, Google & Bing Are The Same, So Try Bing!

It’s perhaps one of the strangest product pitches I’ve heard. Asked on stage at Web 2.0 Summit by John Battelle about his Bing search engine, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer encouraged the audience to try Bing because, well, it’s pretty much the same as Google.

The Ballmer 70/15/15 Challenge

“I would issue you all a kind of challenge to try any search you want on Bing and Google,” Ballmer said, explaining that 70% of the time, there won’t be any difference in the results, that 15% of the time, Bing will be better and 15% of the time, Google will be better.

Now, if Ballmer had said that maybe 20% of the time Bing would be better, that would have given it perhaps some advantage over Google. But saying your product is exactly the same as someone else’s isn’t a real incentive, much less a ringing endorsement.

Ballmer did allude to there being things beyond the search results, such user interface differences. But he didn’t stress these as huge, major reasons to change.

Bing: “Getting Stronger”

Asked how Bing is doing versus three years ago, when Battelle last spoke with Ballmer at Web 2.0 about the service, Ballmer said “it’s getting stronger every day” and noted that Bing’s share had risen from 7% to 15%, which was “a nice rise.”

“We went from the number three player to the number two player,” Ballmer continued, explaining that when Bing’s share is combined with that of Yahoo, which Bing provides with results, the two have a 25% to 30% share of the search market in the US.

Ballmer added that beyond market share, the Microsoft-Yahoo alliance is important for “providing enough data to improve the product.”

Ballmer On Yahoo

Was Ballmer happy the plans for Microsoft to buy Yahoo in 2008 for $44-45 billion didn’t go through? “Times change, times change,” he laughed, adding later, “You get lucky sometimes.”

Ballmer went on to say that Yahoo was a great partner, with a huge audience and lots of good things about it, which is why the alliance with Yahoo is important.

Indeed, so important that Microsoft is providing revenue guarantees for an additional year than was originally agreed, to make up for poor monetization that’s plagued the partnership, news that came out during Yahoo’s earning call a few hours before Ballmer’s talk.

No Microsoft+ Coming

In other questions, Ballmer declined to say if Microsoft would launch a social network to rival the likes of Facebook, instead pointing to things like Xbox Live and Windows Live as examples of how Microsoft has “picked its play” in the social space.

Siri Nice; Android Phones Are For Computer Scientists

As for mobile, Ballmer said “there’s certainly some nice things Apple has done with Siri” in terms of its voice recognition and lookup but suggested that Windows Phone and Bing would build on Microsoft’s long-standing previous work in the space and be better.

On Google and mobile, Ballmer got perhaps his biggest laugh of the interview:

“You don’t need to be a computer scientist to use a Windows Phone, but I think you do to use an Android phone.”

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Features: General | Microsoft & Yahoo Search Deal | Microsoft: Bing | Microsoft: Business Issues | Microsoft: General | Microsoft: Mobile | Microsoft: Windows Phone

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • TimmyTime

    Danny,
    you know this but he is saying that quality is no longer an issue so don’t automatically rule Bing out. He may be right or wrong about that but that’s what he is saying. Every 0.2% matters for them.

  • http://docsheldon.com Doc Sheldon

    I can see why Ballmer might be inclined to play it straight. There isn’t a lot of difference in their results, for most users. I’ll give him credit for not trying to push any hype down anyone’s throat. Like Tim says, for them, even .2% can be a nice boost.

    Not exactly inspiring, though, no.

  • tobias.carlen@gmail.com

    Ballmer must be looking at narrow segments to get 70% match. I live in Sweden and my wife is gluten intolerant, so I did a search for “non gluten pizza, Hisingen”, Hisingen being the large island (192 square km’s) where I live. In Swedish the search was “glutenfri pizza hisingen”. None of the hits were the same, top ten hits for google were mostly for local pizzerias that do gluten free + a few services that fetch and deliver from restaurants. What about Bing?
    Pure garbage:
    1. Backstage in the fashion business, a random designer page that contained a list of restaurants in Sweden, one of which was in Hisingen, but without contact info
    2. The same hit as 1 repeated with a slightly differnt link path
    3. A blog with some discussions about gluten free food
    4. a facebook discussion about Swedish restaurants
    5. Kvartersmenyn.se, an local lunch guide page, no specific info about non-gluten food on Hisingen, although you could probably use this guide to find it if you want to.
    6. A pizzeria offering glutenfree pizza in a small town about 150 km distant.
    7. A list of lunch menus for resturants in Gothenburg, some of which are located on Hisingen
    8. A non specific list of resturants in Gothenburg. Some of them serve pizza, some of them have glutenfree food, some of them are located on Hisingen
    9. A kebab outlet on small nearby Island. They do have glutenfree pizza, but you would have to take a ferry to get there….
    10. Hit number 8 repeated

    So relevance is extremely low, any of the links give you worse results than a google search… If Bing had headed the results with “same search using google”, that would have been the best link to click!

  • http://www.nathanielbailey.co.uk Nathaniel Bailey

    “You don’t need to be a computer scientist to use a Windows Phone, but I think you do to use an Android phone.”

    Lol got to love that line, but…
    How many people here have an android phone? I for one do.
    How many of you are scientists? I for one certainly am not.

    Yet I still have no problem using my Android phone! And whats more, I will most likely NEVER get a windows phone as I dont like the look or feel of the layout, its too much like a computer, and thats not what I want my phone for, I have a pc and laptop for that job!

  • http://www.my-green-home-project.com C.C.

    Having just been victimized by the recent Google Panda (loss of 60% of traffic), along with thousands of good sites, I’m all for switching to Bing, to whom I owe much of my traffic these days.

    Before that upset, I was unaware of how much business Bing had been sending my way. Their numbers were kind of overwhelmed by Google’s, but I now realize how significant that traffic was and is.

    Thanks for reminding me.

  • Alwyn Lasrado

    Just Chanced here and saw the note of tobias.carlen@gmail.com, October 19th, 2011 at 4:30 am ET:

    Did exactly what he did and to my surprise the results seem to be same. Does that mean MS does not take feedback and correct it ? Or is Bing just not capable ?

    I’m writing this on 5th December , so a good 45 days have passed !!!

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