Last week I spent a day with Microsoft managers in Redmond, Calif. Much of the talk was about Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine. You may have already read a lot about Bing – the massive marketing campaign of people shouting out random words and phrases, similar to the results that most search engines deliver – but most of what I read missed the real interesting points about Bing: where it could go, how it fits Microsoft’s strategy, and why it is different.
I recently interviewed one of the members of the Bing team and wanted to share some of what I learned. Nothing I included below is classified, but I think my unique insight of Microsoft allows me to see some interesting strategies they are employing. Ask yourself the questions at the end to see if you can use similar tactics.
Bing Stays Out of Google’s Stronghold
One misconception I have been reading about is that Bing is simply a Google copycat service – that Microsoft is attempting to attack Google in its stronghold. What my contact at Microsoft shared, however, shows this is not the case.
“Google built itself up on the algorithm, arguing their algorithm is the best,” my Microsoft contact said.
She admits that the algorithm is a key to success in search. However, Microsoft seems to understand that while Google’s stronghold is rooted in its algorithm, Microsoft’s stronghold is different.
Microsoft’s “core competency,” as business strategists like to call it, is using software to solve problems. And with Bing, Microsoft is sticking with this. It did invest a lot in developing its algorithm, but it also invested in acquiring and building unique search software.
For example, it bought Farecast, a company that made software that helps an individual predict whether an airplane ticket is likely to rise or fall in price. When you go to the “travel” section of Bing now, you will see at the top of the page an interface inviting you to use Farecast to decide the right time to buy.
Microsoft acquired other similar search-related software tools like Jellyfish and Powerset and imbedded them into Bing. As a result, Bing is more a collection of software tools – available online – for making decisions. This keeps Bing in line with Microsoft’s stronghold.
Instead of jumping into your opponents’ stronghold, ask yourself the following questions to see how you can stay true to your core competency while still outthinking the competition.
1. What is my stronghold?
2. What would it mean to pursue this opportunity from my stronghold rather than theirs?