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Microsoft’s $1 Million Guarantee Program To Win Searchers
Microsoft executives, worried that the
acquire Yahoo for an estimated $40 billion might not happen, have hatched an alternative plan that might bring about success over Google at a much cheaper cost. To win in
search, Microsoft may pay people not to use Google. And pay a premium, up to $1
million per year, over the next three years, to anyone within the United States.
Called the "$1 Million Guarantee Program," the initiative will reward anyone
within the United States that agrees to have web surfing monitoring software
hooked to their computer. To allay privacy concerns, the software will watch for
only one thing — use of Google and other non-Microsoft search engines.
Under the program, people can earn up to $1 million per year if they
exclusively use Microsoft’s search products. The program is open to any US
resident aged 6 and above. There will be some provisions for "accidental" or
"occasional" visits to non-Microsoft services. But by and large, the deal is
that by being exclusive to Microsoft, Microsoft will reward users with cold hard
Absurdly expensive? It can seem that way at first, but consider the math.
There’s an estimated 300 million people living in the United States. If you pay
each one $1 million for the next three years, that’s just under $1 billion. That
saves Microsoft $39 billion compared to what it was going to spend on purchasing
The US isn’t the limit for Microsoft rebels behind the plan. The world
population is just under 7 billion. Give each person $1 million for three years
and that’s still only half the price of purchasing Yahoo. However, Microsoft
figures that it could use a sliding scale for some countries. Where the cost of
living is less expensive, less would be given out. And places where the US
dollar is not longer worth as much (Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the
European Union …. it’s a long list), slightly more might be given.
The main reason Microsoft plans to start with the US are the legalities. So
far, they can’t find any US law that would prevent them from paying for
exclusivity in this way. Technically, they aren’t paying for people NOT to use
Google. They’re paying for people to be loyal to Microsoft, which would seem to
clear some regulatory hurdles. After the US, they would examine issues with
other major markets.
So far, there’s no reaction from the Google side. Google’s issue is that it
has far less cash on hand to use to bribe people for loyalty. Instead, Google’s
been relying on simply giving products away, such as Google Docs that just
gained offline access today (and see
here). But with cold
hard cash being offered by Microsoft, especially during a time of economic
turmoil, Google might face the most serious challenge in its history.
Microsoft’s plans are still a work in progress and yet to be approved. If
they are, the hope is that the program will be formally unveiled a year from
today, April 1, 2009.
Postscript: Of course, one fatal flaw in this plan. The math makes no
sense at all. At $1 million per person for even one year, it’s like
$300,000,000,000,000. I don’t even know what you call that. $300 trillion? Just
$10 per person for one year would be like $3 billion. If I’m doing the math
right. And I’m probably not. Did I mention being an English major?