Talk about finding a silver lining in dark search clouds: In two recent interviews, Microsoft has talked up its third-place position in search engine market share as something that gives the company more freedom than Google to take risks.
It started last week with a Bloomberg report quoting Steve Ballmer:
“Google does have to be all things to all people. Our search does not need to be all things to all people.”
And today, Live Search GM Mike Nichols echoed that in an interview on paidContent.org:
“…Google suffers from the innovator’s dilemma. To a degree, every change they make to their search engine has a potential revenue implication for them.
In our particular case, we, of course, care about revenue as well, but we’re not in the market position they are in. We are in a position where we can be a bit riskier.”
Nichols tip-toed around questions asking for specifics about the risks Microsoft is planning, but the Ballmer piece mentions “new business models and ways to present Web search results.” I’ve written recently about the company’s Demo Fest and Tech Fest, but the ideas mentioned there are said to be in very early stages. In any case, it looks like we can expect an update to the Live Search product this spring — possibly under the Kumo.com name, but possibly not according to Nichols. Either Microsoft isn’t ready to tip its hand, or it hasn’t figured out what cards it has.
On a related note, TechFlash has published the highly sarcastic The Top 10 Greatest Moments in Microsoft Internet Search History. And any big picture thinking about Microsoft’s search past and future should include Danny Sullivan’s Tough Love For Microsoft Search from a couple months ago.