News.com has just posted a Q&A interview with Bill Gates on a variety of issues including search, web browsers, and why he doesn’t have a blog.
After saying the MS was in the search business before Google, Gates says Microsoft has a, “commitment to build unique search technology across the board,” and points to the work being done at Microsoft Research (see: Microsoft Research Gets Serious About Search and a compilation of several MS Research search-related papers and patents I compiled in July.)
Gates goes on to say, “…our research agenda will allow us to take today’s search from ourselves and Google and make what we have today look like a joke.” Later in the interview he talks about search being a “significant” business (aka “big revenue”) for MS and again says that, “today’s search is nothing.”
When the interview turns to talk about desktop search Gates says, “…we want to compete on the desktop because that’s a key innovation area for Windows…we think the competition between ourselves and Google and Yahoo will improve things.” This is after he says that most of the reviews he has seen gives MSN Desktop higher marks than Google Desktop.
We’re planning our own comparative review of desktop search tools for Search Day but I can say that I’ve been impressed to this point when using MSN’s desktop tool. Of course, this comparative review from Slate published yesterday, places Copernic’s desktop search product (one I’ve liked and used since day one) at the top of the list while giving MSN a higher grade than Google.
Finally, Mr. Bill says that local search (finding your local pizza parlor) isn’t all that good these days and says again that search in 2005 is not very good. In this instance he uses the word “crummy.”
On the topic of weblogs he says that MSN Spaces has nearly one million users and because of RSS the decay rate (people starting and stopping blogs) is improving. Gate says he’s toyed with the idea of blogging but doesn’t want to start something he can’t finish. That said, he’s keeping the idea of starting a blog in mind.
OK, those are a few of the highlights that I took away from the interview. When it comes to search I think that a major issue Mr. Bill has to deal with (at least for now) is public perception (right or wrong) of Microsoft versus the almost always positive (maybe even an understatement) things that the public and the press have to say about his search competitors. Innovation in the research lab is one thing but getting the masses (not early tech adopters) to try something new, understand how it might be useful to them, and then want to use it on a regular basis, is something else. They’ll also have to deal with the press wanting to compare whatever they offer with what Google has done, is doing, or will/might/could offer in the future versus looking at the product. Of course, throughout all of this Google, Yahoo, Jeeves, and all of the others will also be innovating. Plus, I believe that vertical search tools will continue to offer plenty of new search options. Bottom Line: Yes, this is going to be fun.
As MS rolls out more in the way of search, we will begin seeing plenty of “traditional” advertising. This is somewhat ironic since Google has been able to build its brand and reputation without having to do any of it.