Microsoft: Back To The “Early Days Of Search” Songbook


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.