Is Project Bing a strategic miscalculation or a leadership issue at Microsoft?

Global Issue analysed by Dr. Kamel Mnisri

What went wrong with Project Bing? When Microsoft tested Bing, as a decision aid it was positively received by customers as user-friendly and innovative. But when launched as a competitive search-engine to Google, its problems began to mount

Bing’s intention in the short term was to compete with Google, and increase its share in the online search market. However, a few months after it is launched, Bing has faced tough allegations and challenges. In addition to allegations of plagiarism and censoring Chinese language searches, Bing sits in the third position in the search engine market, behind Google and Yahoo.

Bing hits regulatory problems in Europe

Earlier this year [2010] Microsoft was forced to put a time-limit on Bing data to suit stricter European concepts of antitrust and privacy laws. A European advisory group criticised the manner in which search engines collect and retain data on individuals and the way the data was being used for advertising purposes. Faced with this challenge, Microsoft had accepted that it needed to act in accordance with regulators, and discard all data collected on users of its Bing search engine after six months. Microsoft reported that this decision on Bing’s data retention policy would have consequences on users around the world and not only in Europe.

What went wrong?

With Bing, Microsoft had made many surprising advances in search. The Bing team carried out an extensive analysis on the search-engine market from a customer’s perspective, and focused on underserved customers needs. But when Microsoft introduced Bing, analysts evaluated the search engine as having a long way to catch up with Google dominance. In a very small trial by Leaders We Deserve contributors, there was no obvious winning product for their most common search requirements.

The question is what went wrong with project Bing? Could we talk about strategic miscalculation or a leadership issue? In light of Google’s continued dominance in the search engine market, it appears difficult for Bing to rival Google. In the UK 75% of online searches go through Google UK for example, at a rate of 100 million queries a day. In addition, Google is an innovative company that puts much effort on improving search. Google, treating Microsoft as a respected competitor, had reportedly allocated a team of specialist engineers to battle Bing.

Overall, Bing is operating in a very complex and challenging environment where creativity could be applied. But, what are the options for Bing? How might it face the allegations and challenges of reaching its goal of become the number 1 search engine in the world?

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