Microsoft is offering MSN Search users $1 million worth of prizes, including gift cards to a formidable list of consumer-centric retailers like Starbucks
Such contests are nothing new. Think of McDonald's
MSN Search could use the extra boost, too. Statistics from Nielsen-NetRatings put MSN Search in third place at the moment, behind Google
That $1 million should be money well spent if it can convince some people to at least try Microsoft's search functions. Microsoft has worked hard to revamp its search technology, but Google's established stronghold as users' search engine of choice is hard to beat. Of course, Microsoft had better hope that its search functions compare favorably to Google's; otherwise, anyone who tries it might go back to Google anyway.
My colleague Seth Jayson uses MSN Search and related tools exclusively now, and finds them comparable to Google in quality. (He's also rather fond of some of MSN's snazzy extra features.) One Fool has even recently argued that Google promises, but Microsoft delivers.
This sweepstakes the latest salvo in the search wars: If you can't beat 'em, bribe their users. Given its lag in the search market, Microsoft might as well give it a shot.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.