Google commands a dominant share of the search market and there's no sign that this will change anytime soon.
But should it be worried about Microsoft's recently-launched 'decision engine', Bing?
Here are 5 reasons why Google should be worried about Bing:
Bing is decent. While Bing may not be revolutionary, it is decent. And given the impression many of us have about Microsoft, 'decent to good' is pleasant surprise.
Case in point: although I still use Google by habit, I've been making a conscious effort to use Bing. That's something I wouldn't be doing if I thought the product was shoddy; this represents the first new Microsoft product I've started using on a somewhat frequent basis in a long time.
- Bing still has momentum. According to comScore, Microsoft's gains with the launch of Bing were not a spike event. While Bing's long-term momentum is hard to predict, Google obviously would have hoped that Bing's gains would have done a Wolfram Alpha and evaporated overnight.
Microsoft is willing to invest. Yesterday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stated that he was willing to invest 5-10% of Microsoft's operating income in search for the next 5 years. Based on Microsoft's current operating income, this would amount to an investment of up to $11bn. He likened this strategy to the company's investment in the Xbox gaming console, which has paid dividends.
Is this a smart move? It could turn out to be a huge failure but that really doesn't matter. If you're Google, you don't want to see a cash-rich competitor gaining confidence and investing billions of dollars in taking you out.
Google is scrambling to improve its messaging. In my opinion, Google's Achilles heel is the fact that it often fails to market its product well to users. Even in search, the fact that Bing was praised for features that Google also has demonstrates that Google has largely been thriving from user habit and its brand.
Bing has been a wake-up call and make no mistake about it: the fact that Google is now eager to remind users about all of its search features is acknowledgment that Google recognizes it has been complacent in this area.
Google is no longer the underdog. Google is a great company and has a wonderful brand. But it's the search market's 800-lb. gorilla. Naturally, it's hard for Google to please everyone and increasingly, its interests conflict with those of users, customers, regulators and other stakeholders.
Few are still under the spell of the company's do no evil' mantra and most recognize that Google is a lot like any other multi-billion dollar multinational corporation. In its battle with Microsoft, that means that Google can't rely on the kind of built-in underdog support that it has received in the past.
All of these things highlight why Google should be concerned about Bing but Microsoft should be careful too: if it does too good a job, it may just awaken a sleeping giant. Google is still an innovative company with distinct advantages over Microsoft and Redmond should remember that.
Photo credit: betancourt via Flickr.