Ask CEO Jim Lanzone and Microsoft search head Steve Berkowitz were asked about competing with Google during a session at the Web 2.0 Summit. Neither came up with a convincing plan for how they might knock Google off its game.
Ask has about a 6 percent share and Microsoft is around 12 percent of the search market (although Microsoft has 460 million users worldwide), which is dominated by Google, with Yahoo following up. At this point there are legitimate competitors, Lanzone said. He identified Google’s soft underbelly as being distracted from search by other development projects, such as deploying Web services to enlarge its footprint. “It requires Google to innovate in areas that don’t have much to do with search,” he said. "Google is the model T of search. Over time peoples' needs evolve."
I don't think that Google will be asleep at the wheel and fail to evolve search with more customizations than a Model T.
Berkowitz is focused on creating different search experiences for Microsoft search. "The idea is that at end of day you create a great experience for consumer....marketing in this business is the product itself. I don’t think we have understood it, and if we embrace that we can change the dynamics of market place," he said. For Microsoft, the ideas seems to be creating different search experiences based on where users come from. If users enter search from a community site, there is more context, such as pages visited, which will be different from a searcher coming from instant messaging, where the user could be assumed to younger and might want to tap into results from friends in their network.
Regarding Google, Berkowitz said that Google could have the problem in the future of maintaining backward compatibility as it expands its footprint, as will as cultural issues and the problems associated with being a public company, which Microsoft knows well.
None of the criticisms add up to much of challenge if Google continues to execute, but it isn't a zero sum game, as Lanzone concluded. The portal players will try to come up with reason that make it less of a habit for people to jump to Google for search.