Next month Microsoft will relaunch its search engine or launch its new search engine (currently dubbed Kumo/Kiev) together with a new marketing campaign to promote it. The question on everyone’s minds is: will it change anything?
Despite a range of efforts so far Redmond has not been able to boost its market share in search. Speaking yesterday at Stanford University, where he attended business school, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said:
“We are going to have to be more disruptive” in search.
Cashback is part of that equation for Microsoft — as in disruption of the traditional advertising model. But Ballmer also said that Microsoft will be taking more “risks” in search going forward. He opined that because Google is the market leader it has to be more conservative than Microsoft, almost by definition, because Google is protecting more revenue in search. While that’s true as a matter of abstract logic, Google probably has “risk taking” or “experimentation” more deeply engrained in its corporate culture than Microsoft does.
Microsoft in fact could do some radical things in search and see what took hold. But from all appearances, radical change in search doesn’t seem to be the company’s path at this point.
I’ve argued in the past that Microsoft should attempt to buy Twitter and forget about Facebook. However that’s becoming more and more challenging as time passes. But there are other services that the company could build or buy that might take search in new directions along the lines of Twitter and beyond.
It would be great to see Microsoft really, truly experiment and place multiple search bets rather than one big bet. (Maybe the company would argue that it’s already doing this but I would disagree.) This is what nature does, in fact, with evolution. Some experiments succeed and some fail. But experimentation is key.