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Google Bests Bing in Search (Again)

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Microsoft search engine gains evaporate. Plus: The boom in 3-D printers, and Amazon's brief stay in the doghouse.

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The latest monthly numbers on Internet search market share suggest that Google (GOOG) has got its lead back, despite the combined best efforts of Microsoft (MSFT) and Yahoo (YHOO).

Google held a 65.6% share of the US search market in October, compared with 15.2% for Yahoo and 14.8% for Microsoft, according to newly released figures from comScore (SCOR). Microsoft's Bing search engine now drives Yahoo searches, giving the partnership a 30% share.

The October figures show only fractional changes for each of the top three. But BusinessInsider.com points out that the September and October numbers seem to point to a reversal of steady gains by Bing at Google's expense. The Microsoft-Yahoo combo took market share from Google for almost 10 months. That trend appears to have halted in August and reversed in September.

SearchEngineLand.com estimates that Microsoft is still losing $11 million a day in the development, operation and marketing of its Bing "decision engine."

In Brief:
Who's Doing 3-D Printing?
Okay, going out on a limb here… There's a technology out there that is ripe to go mainstream, and it could radically change the way we create, design, and build things, in business and at home.

Naturally, as a Minyanville professor, my first thought is to identify the public companies that are getting in early and doing it well, so that we can all make money off of their brilliant breakout products.

Here's the problem: I can't find evidence that any big technology players are involved in the development and popularization of 3-D printing.

It's not exactly mainstream yet, but "digital fabrication," as 3-D printing is sometimes termed, is definitely out there. You can buy a printer and feed in a design, and it will build a prototype, or a part, or a finished object made of plastic or metal material. It's a factory in a box, in effect.

An outfit called Objet.com sells desktop 3-D printers starting at about $20,000. MakerBot Industries made the latest Popular Mechanics "Coolest DIY Products" list with its $999 Thing-O-Matic, an open-source 3-D printer.

There is 3D Systems (DDD), which claims to have invented 3-D printing 25 years ago. The company earlier this year acquired a competitor, Alibre, which is also in the business of building 3-D printers for professional design and engineering uses.

Related businesses include Web-based services like Shapeways, Sculpteo and QuickForge, that will make a 3D print of your design on demand.

There are sites for hobbyists to share their products. MakerBot runs Thingiverse, where people post their own printable product designs. You can build anything from a grape soda bottle cap to a miniature model of a tower that once stood at Coney Island's long-lost Luna Park.

But where is the Xerox or Kleenex of digital printing brands? Or maybe the real question is, which of the many startups and small companies is going to make the breakout hit of 3-D printing?

Just asking…

Audio Report
This just in: Buried in a CNN report about 4G high-speed wireless networks and the many ways that carriers hope to make money on them is an indication that at least a couple of companies are going back to basics.

That is, they see their upgrades to 4G as an opportunity to enable so-called voice over LTE, or VoLTE technology. And that may finally improve the audio quality and clarity of voice calls, which haven't changed much since the first consumers cranked up their telephones.

Verizon (VZ) has announced plans to start selling VoLTE-enabled phones in early 2012. Discount carrier MetroPCS (PCS) is rolling out VoLTE service now.

Despite the plethora of applications for smartphones, it seems that plain old phone calls still account for 47% of their actual use. So consumers still grade their carriers primarily by call quality.

Verizon executive Brian Higgins told CNN that "high-definition audio fidelity will be a major selling point" for Verizon going forward.

Amazon Out of the Doghouse
Amazon's (AMZN) brief exile to the Wall Street doghouse seems to be over. You'll remember that the company's shares dropped more than 4% in the days after its October 25 quarterly earnings report. Analysts worried that a whole lot of money was being spent upfront on the new Kindle Fire, the company's loss-leader entry into the tablet computer competition.

Well, that was then. The negativity seems to have dissolved with the announcement that the devices will be delivered a little earlier than expected. Amazon's shares rose almost 2% to $218.93 Monday after the company announced that the first Kindle Fire tablets are on their way to customers, one day earlier than expected. Its lower-priced Kindle Touch e-reader models start shipping this week, too, six days ahead of the previous release date.

J.P. Morgan raised its price target to $250 from $230, citing optimism about the potential in 2013 for sales of media for all those portable devices.

Amazon is up 22% for the year.

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