Bing, bang, boom: Is Microsoft's search engine secretly for sale?

Bing, bang, boom: Is Microsoft's search engine secretly for sale?

Summary: Microsoft publicly says Bing is a core strategic asset for the company. But privately, could the Softies be exploring ways to offload it?

TOPICS: Microsoft, Google

There've been recurrent calls among some on Wall Street, some shareholders -- and apparently, some execs inside Microsoft -- for Microsoft to dump Bing.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer seems to be dead-set against the idea. The official Microsoft stance is Bing search is "a pretty strategic asset for the company" with benefits that "can be leveraged across our whole product set."

But privately it seems that some of Microsoft's key negotiators have floated the idea of offloading Bing to Facebook as a possible strategy. That's according to a New York Times report on April 23 having to do with the latest Microsoft-Facebook  alliance -- this one involving the AOL patents Microsoft bought and is now selling to Facebook.

Just how serious the "let's dump Bing" discussions between unnamed Microsoft officials and their Facebook counterparts were isn't exactly clear. Here's how The Times described what their sources said:

"Some executives within Microsoft have advocated selling Bing to another company, with the idea that a company better focused on the Internet market could pose a more credible challenge to Google, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions who didn’t want to be identified talking about internal deliberations.

"Over a year ago, Microsoft executives sent out feelers to Facebook to see if the company would be interested in acquiring Bing, though the overture was not officially sanctioned by Steven A. Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft, one of these people said.

"Mr. Zuckerberg declined, saying Facebook had too much else to concentrate on."

The implication here is at least some Microsoft execs think of Bing more as nothing more than a thorn in Google's side -- a hoped-for distraction -- rather than as something central to Microsoft's future. If that is the case, it seems kind of crazy to me that Microsoft is continuing to integrate Bing into more and more of its products; rely on technologies powering Bing to help evolve the company's cloud and big-data technologies; and continue to hire big-name (and probably big-ticket) search and advertising talent to work at Microsoft.

Microsoft seems to be struggling to find ways to turn Bing from a perpetual money sink-hole into a revenue generator. (And some of these could backfire, as Istartedsomething's Long Zheng noted in a post today.)

Could pressures from outside and inside force CEO Ballmer to reconsider his bullishness on Bing? Should they? What's your take?

Topics: Microsoft, Google


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Interesting

    Doesn't this cause a real problem for Google? If you suppose that Bing eventually goes away, Google search becomes an actual monopoly, and thus, heavily regulated.

    Google = Microsoft 2.0.
    Jeff Kibuule
    • I suppose

      This question is akin to asking me "Would you like to be a billionaire: you know you'll be in a higher tax bracket, right?"

      I try not to let money be the primary guide to my choices, but, I'd take the deal. Besides, one can hire awesome tax attorneys when one has the cash flow.
    • Juggs

      Eh, I'd think of them more of a juggernaut instead of an outwright monopoly. Theres still and Yahoo
      Fat Albert 1
      • doesn't have much market share.

        Yahoo search uses Bing, not the Yahoo search engine any more. So you would be looking at Google having 90%+ of the search and ad revenue. That would be horrible for the internet. Note that Google was not innovating at all until Bing started to take hold.
  • I like Bing

    and I hate the idea of having to use it if Facebook owned it. This all means I would go back to Google and that just sucks. I bet Google search would rise if this were to happen and it makes me very sad
    • Bing is just Microsoft's lack of creativity

      Another "me too" product from the sloth that's never had an original idea.
      • Hahahahaha...... just described Google you retarded twat, not Microsoft. Google throws darts at a dart board to see what will stick. How many POS products have they made that they have had to can beause they were worthless. The list is long and distinguished.

        There's just a few you idiot.
      • Google envy

        That's why they created it.

        Same principle we're now seeing as iPad envy. MS wouldn't have bothered with the metro interface had it not been for the iPad.
    • Me too

      I haven't used Google for a long time now and the integrated Bing on my WP7 phone is great. In the end, I'll take a software developer over an advertising company and losing Bing to anyone would be a tragedy.
  • Selling Bing? Hell to the No

    Bing is used in everything Microsoft. You think they will uncouple it from their Core Platforms (Xbox,W8 & WP8). Bing has come too far to be off-loaded now. Selling it to Facebook sounds nice, but what is in it for MS? They better get a truckload of shares, otherwise is not worth the effort. I love Bing, can't remember the last time I used Google, as that company has become too big with too many controversies that are either out already, or yet to be exposed. Naah... Bing should stay right where it is now, and for sure it will have a great future at a company with very deep pockets.
    • I agree...

      I like the integration on my phone, xbox, and PC. I must admit I use Google for technical searches to help me solve software/hardware problems as they seem to produce better results for obscure model #s and things, but Bing is great for shopping/travel, and the voice interaction is very nice.
    • Agree

      With its integration in the 3 screens and a cloud platform (Xbox, PC, phone), it wouldn't make sense to separate Bing from MS. Bing search, maps, etc. are terrific on WP7 and xbox (search only), and should be nicely packaged with Win 8. Bing's value is not as a standalone entity, but as a unified experience across devices. The unification over time will lead to more money for Bing.
  • They should not

    Google should not be left alone in the game. Since Live Search became Bing, Google have improved a lot their search engine. Competition is a good thing. It keeps every player on their toes, ready to strike. Besides that, Bing is still a decent search engine. They should however continue to work on the relevancy to the search results and work harder for local information outside USA.

    Google makes good and sometimes great products. People are attracted to Google even if some of their products are not as good as their competitors (sorry but Windows phone OS is better that Android and the Playbook OS2 is better than Android also). The name is sexy it seems. But Google is also a conqueror that needs to be tamed. Maybe their multiple cases in court will do exactly that. They should not be left alone or they will destroy everything on their path with impunity. Hope MS stays on course with Bing.
  • I love bing...don'g ruin it!

    I use bing daily over Google. The reason I switched from google is because of Search + Your World. If Facebook own bing, it would distroy bing as it is today and make it a social search, the very reason I stopped using Google search. Bing is too good to die!
  • Bad idea

    I like Bing. I think I've been binging since it's 3rd day. I wouldn't be happy if it were given to facebook. Especially since I'm not on facebook.

    Nope, bad idea. Google would be very happy, and is probably secretly hoping there is some truth to this. But no. Bad idea!
  • No Way.

    Won't Happen when Ballmer and Gates are alive.
    Bing search and Bing maps just need to be rolled out internationally.
  • I hate Bing

    Stupid Name, poor search results, and from a company most hate.

    So why would I use Bing???
    • ...

      Stupid name for a non-IT educated person
      Poor ability to make your point
      and from an obviously biased FUD-spreader

      So why would anyone ever listen to you???
      • Coming from a "TARD"...

        I find your comment so funny I split my sides laughing.

        Why would anybody take a tard seriously.
      • Trolls

        @itguy10 and @ScorpioBlack, You guys are probably the biggest anti-M$ trolls I have ever seen. There's nothing wrong with being pro or anti anything, but do you guys do anything but patrol the net looking for something to bash?