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Microsoft Bing Steals Google's Ball


Looks like we may finally have a winner in the search wars.

Bing, Microsoft's (MSFT) new search engine, is gaining market share.

The question: Will it last?

Microsoft appears to have developed competitive technology to take on Google (GOOG) in the cutthroat search market. If so, the key to future success will be marketing.

Anyone can switch search engines with a few clicks. The trick is getting users to make Bing their default setting, assuring continued use. That will take marketing smarts and muscle.

It's too early to tell whether Bing's new users will stick with the search engine. Microsoft's recent gain may be nothing more than the result of Internet tourists stopping by for a quick look. But the early numbers are encouraging.

In June, Bing picked up 0.4 points and claimed a market share of 8.4%, data tracker comScore reports. Google remains king of the hill, with 65% of the search market. Yahoo's (YHOO) share fell to 19.6%, down from 20.1% in May. June represents Microsoft's biggest monthly jump in market share since June 2008.

The kicker: Google didn't gain market share in June, the first month that's happened since -- gasp -- January.

"We do not expect Bing to meaningfully impact Google's dominant market-share position," Ben Schachter, an analyst at Broadpoint AmTech in San Francisco, said in a research note.

Last week, Microsoft said there's more work to do on Bing. The software giant said it's concentrating on Bing's position after a year -- not after its first month.

Bing offers new features, including grouping together product reviews and offering projections on airfares. Clicks to Bing's shopping site nearly tripled last month, and traffic on Bing Travel rose 90%, Microsoft reported.

Bing has received generally favorable reviews.

"It's different from the typical search journey you get on Google as the search engine refines the search as you go," Andy Mihalop, head of search for i-level, said in Revolution magazine. "This will make people find results quicker (than) Google."

Michael Arrington, founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, said: "I like it. And I consider using it as my search engine. But like many people, I'm used to Google and I know how to find things I'm looking for. Bing returns very different results for a lot of queries, which is great. But it also means spending time learning how to use Bing to get what you need out of it. I'll spend that time because it's my job. But for most people, they'll stick to what they know -- and that's Google."

In a mixed review, Ryan Singel, a blogger in San Francisco and contributor to Wired, said: "The service is far from perfect. Beautiful data mash-ups coexist side-by-side with perplexing interface choices that make it hard to find the best features. Meanwhile, actual search results were inaccurate in some cases and disappointing overall in the local search category -- one of the areas Microsoft hopes to make its biggest splash."

It appears Microsoft has a winner, and competition will benefit everyone. Here's hoping Microsoft's marketing for Bing is better than their "Shoe Circus" ad featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld -- that pitched what, exactly?
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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