Microsoft quietly registered a limited liability company (LLC) last week, which points to the company being poised to make an acquisition or joint venture.
While some are speculating the new company could have something to do with Microsoft buying Citrix, I think all the signs, not to mention the timing, are pointing to a Microsoft-Yahoo hook-up. After all, this week is the "All Things D" D7 confab, where Microsoft is slated to show off to attendees its newest search release. And both Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz are on the guest list....
If I were going to bet what happens next, here's what I'd wager:
- Microsoft and Yahoo announce some kind of jointly-managed company that will trade ad sales for search engine placement. This "MicroHoo" won't be a merged Microsoft-Yahoo. Instead it will be some kind of ad/search entity.
- Microsoft will rebrand Live Search as Yahoo. (Sure, Bing -- one of the original three names Microsoft has been considering for its Live Search rebrand since 2008 -- still could be the final name of the new version of Live Search that is currently codenamed "Kumo." But in spite of the growing possibility that Bing would become the new Microsoft search brand, Microsoft recently lost its trademark request for Bing....)
- The newly rebranded Yahoo/Bing (or whatever it ends up being called) moves to second place in the search-share wars. Google continues to dominate with 60+ percent and the Yahoo/Bing thing comes in around 25 percent.
Microsoft's newest iteration of its search engine is expected to go live on or around June 2. At the same time, the approximately $100 million ad campaign designed to get people to forget (if they ever knew in the first place) that Live Search existed is expected to kick off.
Do you think the new Microsoft search, whatever it ultimately is called, has a chance to gain ground against Google? Is the search game simply a brand war, and not a features one (as Microsoft continues to claim it is)? And if so, does Yahoo/Bing have a chance against Google?
Update: If Bing does, in the end, become the new Live Search brand name, Microsoft might want to doctor the search results for "bing"... given the first definition that shows up when you search it using Microsoft's engine now: