Bing + Yahoo clearly make Microsoft a formidable competitor to Google on the Internet.
As Don Reisinger points out in "10 Reasons Why Is Microhoo Good for Enterprise Search", all the ingredients are now combined for balanced competition between Microsoft and Google: 1) critical market share (Microsoft + Yahoo account for nearly 1/3 of the market), 2) technological know-how (I hope the transition for our dear friends who have gone from Sinequa to Yahoo a few years ago will not be affected by the new restructuring), 3) financial resources, 4) strategic envy.
This war is finally on a level playing field (awaiting the regulatory approval which may take a small year) and will have a clear positive effect for users of Internet search engines. It is expected to force the two competitors to increase their innovation and user benefits to retain their customers and grow their market share. There should be less pressure on monetization of each user, for fear of losing them to the competition.
This will be an opportunity for Google to return to its roots, as in the days of "No Evil", and to pay even more attention to its products and customers, from the user point of view. Don Reisinger thinks that Microhoo will prevent Google from becoming a Microsoft. In this regard, I see no problem to become a Microsoft, it would be quite a compliment, but it is my personal view.
Nevertheless there is another way to look at the subject. Indeed, Google and Microsoft are two giants engaged in a titanic tug-of-war, a race for power and functional wealth. That is, who will be the best search engine on the Internet? But it is interesting to note that (see the excellent Wired article about this on Facebook's plan to dominate the Internet at the expense of Google) there could be a shift from the paradigm of complete search on the Internet with the emergence of social networks and social search. Indeed, taking the technological point of view, remaining in the logic of engineering pioneers, we can do a remarkable job technologically and industrially but risking to forget one small thing: the customer, the user.
Finally, what the user needs are answers to their questions, they don't care whether it comes from the best search engine; most often I prefer information that comes from a trusted third party: a friend on Facebook or LinkedIn, a media source that I like, the twit of a known person. Is it better to find a pizzeria in the yellow pages (yes, they still exist ...) or on Google Maps, reading a dozen unknown comments on the quality of their pizza, or is it better to find a post, a twit or other from a friend who recommends the Pizzetta, a nice pizza place just a few steps from where you are (because Manu the server is very nice and the whole wheat pizza dough is organic and the Buffalo mozzarella is so good you'll believe you're at the heart of Puglia...). Personally, I prefer the second approach if it's possible. Interesting that Twitter has just released an internal search function this week.
And the business model you say? I don't worry; years of entrepreneurship have taught me one thing: satisfied users are worth something; just as one cannot indefinitely prefer their operating accounts to their clients, everything gets paid for one day or another. I therefore believe that the two giants will differentiate themselves as much by their intrinsic qualities as by their ability to find ways to work with social networks, especially Facebook, Twitter, and why not LinkedIn. From this point of view, Google has a small disadvantage in my opinion, this attitude of "fake cool". This slightly condescending way of looking at others like a child prodigy who would not want to grow old and see other young emerging talents. If Facebook has refused their offer and sold a stake to Microsoft, it may be because of this immodesty. But Google is a great company lead by very smart people motivated by humanist ambition, they will surely soon correct this and it will certainly help to manage their strategic partnerships better.
I wanted to write about this subject because it has lots of parallels with what we are experiencing in the enterprise search engine market. Those who know Sinequa know that one strong focus of our product is people search and integration of enterprise search into the enterprise social networking tools (see my post Searching What or Searching Who). Using text-mining, we are trying in particular to enhance enterprise social networking by leveraging the data from other sources and vice versa. At Sinequa, we must simultaneously work hard on difficult technological issues sometimes close to infrastructure (management of very large volumes, speed, language relevancy, text-mining, security, real time, integration into or with heterogeneous applications...) and at the same time we are ultimately judged on something quite simple: the customer's smile. Apple is a good example of successful management of this paradoxical injunction, the iPhone is a technological feat, however, sometimes with choices that others would not have made (no 3G or no video for a very long time for example). Without technological excellence: no iPhone, but without a radical desire to satisfy the client at the expense of technology: no iPhone.
I cannot detail the choices and strategy of Sinequa, but those who know me have seen all the value that I attribute to the smiles of our customers.