New data suggests Microsoft's Bing search engine is continuing  to grow well, weeks after its launch. It's great news for the team at Redmond...but it started us wondering: Are we in the middle of a Microsoft Rennaissance?
Microsoft's own data, released yesterday, points to an 8% growth in unique visitors in June over the previous month, and the number of visitors who'd "likely recommend" the service to friends doubled in June. Given the cut-throat nature of the browser market, and the fact that an alternative engine is just a single click away, this represents a fabulous success for MS. JP Morgan analyst Imran Khan also recently commissioned a survey that points to Bing's prowess--59.1% of the respondents had heard of it, 24.9% of them had tried it, and they liked it. It's not just the search engine, though: Bing Shopping has seen a 300% growth through June, and Bing Travel has leaped up 90%. This news is doubly interesting from a consumer point of view, because MS isn't selling you the Bing services--they're free, and the reason they're attracting customers is because they're good.
Yes, after the years of embarrassment, consumer complaints and bizarre legal wranglings that was Microsoft Vista OS, Microsoft has a new product that's actually good. It doesn't stop at Bing either. Vista's replacement, Windows 7, has had pretty glowing reviews everywhere on the 'net. Microsoft's management and engineers really seem to have taken on board the problems that dogged Vista, and innovated around them so that the new OS is much better, smaller, and more pleasant to use. Its pricing seems shamefully high still, but at least the company launched it with a limited number of low-cost promotional copies. And let's not forget the downloadable release candidate version of the OS is actually available free for a year.
Then we have yesterday's news  about Office 2010, which seems to consolidate and improve on the core functions of MS's business productivity suite, adding in a collaborative working system that's definitely going to boost its usefulness. More interesting is the Office 2010 cloud-based system, which will offer limited functions in a browser-based package, meaning you can access and edit documents wherever you can find a 'net connection. And it's free, which will be a massive boon to students the world over, as well as for limited business uses.
Add in the roaring success of the Xbox 360 in the console market--where it's busy beating the giant Sony at its own game--along with its potentially amazing Project Natal game motion controller. And what you have is a Microsoft that's looking like a totally reborn entity, strong on many fronts and with good public opinion.
But let's not go too far into the butterfly-after-ugly-caterpillar theme here. Microsoft's trying to turn itself around not for you and me, the consumer, but because it has to if it wants to keep making King Solomon-sized piles of money. And MS has long demonstrated its ability to sink its venomous fangs into something to get its own way at any cost--just remember the number of anti-competitive law  suits  that surround the company. Meanwhile Google's expanding interests, with free consumer products that just seem to work, and Apple's increasing PC market share, media darling status, and skyrocketing iPhone are clearly significant threats to Microsoft.
We'd better keep and eye on things, and have some serious weaponry standing by. Because, with Microsoft's history, all of this could easily switch in an instant from butterfly rebirth to the bloody, messy, vicious Alien bursting out of John Hurt's chest type.
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