TechCrunch is reporting that Microsoft has gathered a team of twenty or more “rock star” developers who’ve been tasked at building their next generation search engine. Few other details are provided with the exception that the engine would be “horizontal” and will be very cool. My reaction – yawn.
I assume this move is in response to the fact that Live Search has been unable to cut into Google’s dominance in search. The last comScore search engine ratings report showed Google with a whopping 49.7% market share and Microsoft with a dismal 10.3%. That is hardly cutting into their lead which seems to grow each time new statistics are released. Do they think that a new search engine will do the trick? Sorry, but I hardly think so.
Microsoft is just too late in the game. Unless Google makes a major mistake, I don’t see anyone on the horizon that is going to be able to cut into their lead. Their dominance is solidified by the fact that more and more people use the phrase “I googled” as opposed to “I searched” to describe the act of searching itself. Let’s face the facts – Google has become synonymous with search in the public’s mind, much in the same way Microsoft has become synonymous with operating systems, word processing, and spreadsheets. I don’t think it really matters at this point if Microsoft does build a better search engine. The vast majority of people associate Google with search. It is a branding phenomena.
Google is not the only company to succeeded at this. History is full of examples where a brand has become synonymous with the product or service associated with it. Here are a few examples:
- Kleenex – Although there are many manufacturer’s of tissue paper, it is the term “kleenex,” a trade mark owned by Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, that we come to associate the product with.
- Realtor – A “realtor” is actually a real estate agent that belongs to the National Association of Realtors, however most people think all real estate agents are realtors.
- Jet Ski – In reality they are called “personal watercraft” but we know them as jet skis even though that is actually a brand name for the product owned by Kawasaki.
- Jell-O – Jell-o is a gelatin desert but how many people say, “I think I’ll have a gelatin?” Rather it is referred to as Jell-o which is a brand belonging to Kraft Foods.
There are additional examples of these genericized trademarks at Wikipedia. The point I am making is that Google has won search. Yes Microsoft should attempt to make improvements to their search engine as they should also do with many of their other products (such as Vista). To try to topple Google is an unrealistic goal in my mind. Possibly they should just settle for second best or even third. Yahoo did.