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Microsoft: Back To The "Early Days Of Search" Songbook

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Microsoft's Ballmer boasts of search engine progress from the Associated Press gives us an update from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, out of this week's MSN Strategic Account Summit, on how things are going on the search front. Short answer: big advances, but lots of work to be done.

Notably, there was no timeline on surpassing Google in six months, something we've heard before. Instead, Microsoft is back to the original songbook of "it's still the early days of search," what they used to say back in 2003, when they declared entry into the search wars. From Ballmer:

"I like to tell our people, 'I like the years when we make at least a year's progress in a year,'" Ballmer said. "I think we've made more than two years' progress in the last two years, so I'm excited about that. And yet, we have a whole lot more innovation that we want to bring to these areas."

And:

"We are hardcore about having the best search offering ourselves, with our partners," Ballmer said. "We'll just keep at it and at it and at it, and I have confidence in our ability to build a loyal user base."

From corporate VP Christopher Payne, who oversees MSN Windows Live Search:

"I think we'll look back on this as the DOS era of search."

And from Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, acknowledgment of Google doing a "great job" but not to count Microsoft out:

"I think this is one of the rare cases where we're being underestimated," Gates said.

Overall, there's really nothing we haven't heard before. Seriously -- the statements yesterday are like the same things said back in mid-2003. Ballmer's right -- they've made huge progress in building a search engine, but it's one that feels still well behind the leaders -- who aren't sitting still themselves.

Imagine the situation if Microsoft had purchased Inktomi back at the end of 2002, rather than letting Yahoo get it for what seems like a pittance today, $235 million. They had the opportunity, one of my knowledgeable readers informs me, but decided it was too steep a price for something they thought they could built themselves.

At least passing on purchasing Overture, which Yahoo also got, hasn't been so bad. On the ad side, Microsoft has built up a strong solution with adCenter.

Want to go back in time and see what's been said before, from the Microsoft camp? Gates Dings Google, Yet Fails To Impress On Search Himself from me last January will take you through the years.


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