What's Live.com? you may ask. Live.com is MSN search rebranded.
Erik posits the following questions:
the three questions that everyone asks me about search when they find out I’m from Microsoft are:
- Will Microsoft beat Google?
- How will Microsoft beat Google?
- When will Microsoft beat Google?
Let me answer them: Maybe. By building products customers prefer over Google. Not soon.
Maybe?!? I'd answer these questions with a "NEVER." It is NEVER going to happen that somehow MSFT search will go from 12% share and declining to beating Google's 60% share.
Microsoft has already lost. It's way too late, and Erik saying that it wasn't realistic for them to catch Google in 2 or 3 years (contra the typical meaningless Ballmer boosterism - "In the next six months, we'll catch Google in terms of relevancy" - Jun '06) is proof.
Erik's right in his hedge about "by building products customers prefer over Google", but Microsoft just doesn't do that.
He's also right that the Ballmer fantasy time frames weren't realistic, because they are Microsoft, and despite having a $5B/yr research budget and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on search, they cannot INVENT the thing that will displace the product created by the much more focused, nimble and innovative team at Google.
Google has simply outperformed Yahoo and Microsoft by a mile in doing distribution deals this year. They've done the following:
And they still have Mozilla / Firefox in their back pocket, and their toolbar distribution is running slightly ahead of Yahoo! (Meanwhile, Google corrupted the blogosphere with the immensely successful AdSense system, while Yahoo and MSN barely made a peep.)
So in sum:
This game is over, MSFT has lost on product, and it's lost on distribution. Google is not AltaVista, they are not Yahoo circa 1999.
Microsoft has to find the next game. Of course, being Microsoft, they will never do that either.
PS. This post is in honor of today being the first day of the official Vista launch.