Monday, July 25, 2011

Has Bing Gone Bong?

Google's cornerstone revenue stream comes from search. For Microsoft, it remains their operating system. And their expansion into a competitive search engine to rival Google was designed to diversify and grow profitability. Alas, no such luck. "The division that houses Bing lost $2.6 billion in the latest fiscal year." That doesn't sound like a distraction; rather, a full on problem! Does Google simply have the upper hand, does the consumer not want choice of search engines, or does Microsoft simply not have the marketing juice to overtake an incumbent?

Could Bing be more successful in the hands of another company, one that can better utilize the value from a search engine. "Moreover, there are potential buyers. Facebook already works with Bing. It might be interested in buying the site, keeping more traffic onsite, and perhaps using its data to better tweak search results. That would be a potent weapon in its fight with Google, which recently introduced a rival social network, Google+. Apple might even be interested, given its growing online ambitions, evidenced by its consideration of a bid for Hulu."

Truthfully, no incumbent is ever safe; change is rampant, especially in the technology industry, and today's winner is tomorrow's failure. As consumers, we will change search engines, just like we change ISP and cable providers, video platforms, and other businesses, when the buzz and value gets noticed by the consumer and sways us to change behavior. It is why Google must continue to innovate, why it must add new products and services, and why it must take risks.

Microsoft has had amazing success with it's operating system and with XBox. But it has had many failures too. Bing may not have had a chance in the Microsoft culture. It may be a better fit with Facebook or Apple or Yahoo. It may be hard for Microsoft to concentrate on Bing when it's core business is being hurt by tablets and cloud applications. With Apple owning the mobile and tablet space, and netbooks not requiring a Microsoft operating system to function, computing is slowly moving away from Microsoft. For that reason, Bing has become an expensive distraction for Microsoft in maintaining their PC leadership position.