If Only Microsoft Had Done This Sooner

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) finally got its wish. The world's leading software company is a force to reckon with in search.

Analytical firm Experian Hitwise claims that Bing-powered searches accounted for 24% of all queries during the first week of its deal with Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) . It's not an insignificant portion, but Experian Hitwise also claims Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) market share for the month of August clocked in at a whopping 71.6%. In other words, this game is already over. Advertisers can bypass Bing and still reach a majority of the Web's curious cruisers.

Now, it bears pointing out that this is just one Internet traffic watcher's opinion. A couple of weeks ago, industry giant comScore (Nasdaq: SCOR  ) had Yahoo! and Bing combining for 28.1% of July's explicit searches. Google was perched at only 65.8%.

But no matter whose numbers you buy into, they would probably all agree that Microsoft has wasted valuable time in bringing Bing up to speed.

Three year ago, Microsoft executive Kevin Johnson was targeting roughly 35% market share in search and 40% in online advertising within three to five years.

Microsoft isn't close, and it's going to take a serious Google gaffe -- or a conscious retreat, as it has in all but yielding China to Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU  ) -- to meet those goals.

And it's just not going to happen. Google commanded only 54% of the search market at the time of Johnson's comments. It may not have exactly been vulnerable at the time, but a combination of Yahoo! and Microsoft would have covered 31.5% of the queries at the time, according to Nielsen Online. The gap seems to widen with every passing year.

Sure, Microsoft tried. A few months after Johnson's comments, the Windows King made a bold bid to swallow Yahoo! whole. It failed, and most analysts argue that Microsoft dodged a bullet; it didn't have to overpay for Yahoo!, and now it gets to milk the cow cheaply.

Well, I don't exactly agree. In the nearly three years that it took this drama to play out, Google only got stronger and Yahoo! only got weaker. Microsoft's Bing was a welcome boost, but the end result is that Microsoft's goal of nabbing more than a third of the search market hinges on Google slipping.

Big G doesn't slip often.

Last week, Google entered into a new five-year deal that finds it fulfilling AOL's (NYSE: AOL  ) searches. Microsoft was apparently a bidder to replace Google in that deal, but came up short -- again.

You snooze, you lose -- market share.

Are you buying Internet stocks these days? Which ones? Why? Share your tips in the comments box below.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Baidu and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Google and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a huge fan of all portals and search engine. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On September 09, 2010, at 9:03 AM, exeter17 wrote:

    Bing sucks. The only reason IMHO that is even rates at all is Verizon pushes it to all their phones as a default search and IE..which people still use - sets it as a homepage.

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