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When money isn't enough, resort to peer pressure. That's the message I get from fresh reports that Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and Facebook plan to combine on new social search capabilities in the Bing search engine. The goal? Topple, or at least better compete with, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) .
Last week, Microsoft said it would expand upon existing efforts to use Facebook data to add richness to Bing results. The new system should, among other things, show users what Facebook friends think of items they're searching for.
Say you want to find reviews of the new Walt Disney hit, Marvel's The Avengers. Conducting a Bing search while logged in to Facebook should show you not only what the Web thinks, but also what friends who've seen the movie think -- pulling directly from their Facebook news feeds.
The timing's right for upping Bing's capabilities. Mr. Softy has seen steadily accelerating operating losses in the Online Services Division that develops and oversees Bing, including a smidge over $2.6 billion during the last fiscal year, according to data supplied by S&P Capital IQ. Those investments haven't meant much so far, and even less over the past six months:
See the pattern? The most significant threat to the continued rise of the company affectionately (and nervously) known as "The Big G" has made exactly zero progress over the past six months. No wonder Microsoft wants to get cozy with Facebook -- CEO Mark Zuckerberg knows more about competing effectively against Google than anyone else in the tech industry, save for perhaps Apple's top brass.
Bing needs the assist, and so does Microsoft. Sure, Mr. Softy has plenty of cash and cash flow, but it'll never continue to be one of the top American businesses -- franchises on track to dominate the world – so long as it has to spend billions to force its way into emerging opportunities. These three megafranchises our analysts at The Motley Fool have discovered are simply better positioned. Read out special report discussing who they are.