Microsoft’s Bing Is Bad Strategy

There’s been a lot of talk, of late, of Microsoft possibly abandoning Bing. Lets’s set aside the reliability of those rumors, the political intrigue involved and the practicality of implementing such a plan and look, instead, at the overall strategy that underlies Microsoft’s Bing.

In my opinion, Bing is, and has always been, bad strategy, plain and simple. Here’s why.

Money Instead Of Strategy

In warfare, if the commander values his troops, he expends brains instead of blood. Likewise, in business, if a CEO values his profits, he expends brains instead of cash.

Microsoft’s ironic problem is that they have far too much money. It’s just easier for them to throw money at a problem than to think it through. It’s been estimated that Bing has cost Microsoft as much as 17 billion dollars. There isn’t another company in the world that would have been willing to lose so much money without re-evaluating their strategy. Microsoft is like a despot that has unlimited manpower. They just keep throwing their troops (money) onto the spears of their opponents in the hope that they will, eventually, blunt those spears.

Attacking Where They Are Strongest

In war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. ~ Sun Tzu

Well, “duh”, you’re saying. Of course one wants to avoid attacking where one’s opponent is strong.

But isn’t that exactly what Microsoft is doing with Bing? Google search is where Google is at its best. Attacking Google Search with Bing is like marching one’s troops directly into the mouths of the enemy’s cannons.

Siege

A siege is the most uneconomic of all operations of war. ~ B.H. Liddel Hart, Strategy

Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities. ~ The Art of War

In my opinion, Bing vs. Google Search is the equivalent of a weaker army besieging a stronger army. It makes no sense.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not pleasant for Google. They have lost some market share. But it’s far worse for Microsoft. Microsoft is bleeding money while Google goes merrily along doing what Google does best. Google is sitting behind its moat and its walls and they are laughing all the way to the bank while they watch Microsoft fruitlessly bleed themselves by banging their heads against Google’s impregnable walls.

Attrition

Attrition is a two-edged weapon and, even when skillfully wielded, puts a strain on the users. ~ B.H. Liddel Hart, Strategy

Microsoft is losing bucket loads of money on Bing and they’re gaining absolutely nothing in return. They have no hope of unseating Google in search. They’re not causing Google to lose any appreciable profits. Their strategy is not only backfiring, it’s actually counter-productive because it’s HELPING Google.

If Bing didn’t exist, Google would almost certainly be facing anti-trust and monopoly scrutiny from governments around the world. By subsidizing Bing with 17 billion dollars, Microsoft is actually HELPING Google by removing the onus of monopoly from their shoulders.

Some strategy, eh?

Conclusion

I seriously doubt that Microsoft is going to abandon Bing. They’re a proud and stubborn company. But as far as pure strategy goes, I can’t see it. It makes less than zero sense. It’s both a negative for Microsoft and a positive for Google. It’s not a strategy — it’s the antithesis of a strategy.

So, what do you think? Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments, below.

Postscript

I often use quotes from my twitter stream in my articles. If you’re interested in following me, you can find me @johnkirk. I look forward to seeing you there.

Siri’s Bing Moment

There were many interesting nuggets that came out of WWDC 2013. For our insiders, I plan to share the few that I don’t think are getting enough attention but yet are more significant than I believe people realize. But perhaps the most awkward part of the keynote was when Apple announced that the new and updated version of Siri will run on Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

This move is clearly one that is up for interpretation. I’m sure many will speculate that this move is nothing more than Apple doing what they can to eliminate any dependencies for Google on core services. Or that Apple does not want to give Google any more valuable data than they already have.

We have opined and written much on our thoughts that Apple clearly wants to usurp the search experience from Google. Siri is a way that this is happening as it functions as an interface layer, which Apple controls, for a search paradigm. Realistically, for a Siri user, it is irrelevant which search engine it uses so long as the data is accurate.

So I decided to put Bing to the test. Microsoft has a challenge called Bing It On in which they challenge you to submit five search queries then vote on a side-by-screen results screen on which you thought was most relevant to you. You don’t know which engine you are choosing, you simply pick the side that you think presented the best results. So I decided to try this as an experiment.

Here are the search queries I used.

– How to identify a queen bee cell
– How to play bluegrass guitar
– Schedule for Wimbledon 2013
– Omelet recipe ideas
– Grammar resources

The way in which I decided which side-by-side screen shot won was by how close to the top the most relevant answer was to the reason behind my search. Interestingly Bing won 4 out of 5 times. The only query Google won was the Wimbledon schedule.

I was actually surprised at this and it has inspired me to try and change my default search engine from all my devices from Google to Bing as a longer term experiment.

As I pointed out before, Siri running Bing may be up for interpretation in terms of Apple’s intentions. However, what matters is that the results are relevant and actionable.

The last thing I want to point out, and I plan to flesh this out more in the future, is that I will not be surprised if we see Apple and Microsoft become closer partners on things in the future. It appears they both now believe they have a common enemy in Google. ((I’m not sure Apple believed this until the last few years)) What’s more, is that in my opinion Google’s enemy is not Apple but it is Microsoft. I firmly believe that Google prefers Apple in the world but wants to eliminate Microsoft from the face of the planet.

Microsoft knows this and I believe will find ways to strategically partner with Apple in this fight. One could be brining Office to iPad only and never to Android. Bing is just the first of many strategic moves I think Apple and Microsoft will take to make sure the Google dictatorship does not rule the world.