David Prosser: Why Microsoft needs Bing to start singing

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The Independent Online

Outlook When Microsoft relaunched Bing, its internet search engine, earlier this year, wits predicted Bing would come to be seen as standing for "but it's not Google".

Well, the computing giant yesterday moved one step closer to its ambition of becoming a credible challenger in online search to Google. Its deal with Yahoo does give the combined entity more scale.

It is not yet enough, however. In the $16bn-a-year US search market the venture will have a 28 per cent share compared to Google's 65 per cent. Worldwide, the respective figures are 11 per cent for Yahoo and Microsoft combined versus 67 per cent for Google. In other words, Google will still have twice the share of its nearest rival in the US and six times the share of the number two globally. There will be opportunities to grow further, but for now at least, Google executives won't be having too many sleepless nights.

However, while some analysts have warned that Microsoft's determination to build its presence in search could distract it from its core business of selling operating systems and software, the Seattle-based company can't afford to be left behind. It's not so much the revenues on offer from search, but the direction in which computing is headed.

Google's dream is that one day, most computing jobs will use internet-based processing power – a big central computer or network – rather than the ugly box under the desk. If that dream comes to pass, Google's own suite of basic internet-based software tools might be all many computer users would ever use. And having spent years trying to muscle in on Google's territory, Microsoft would find its rivals' tanks ruining its lawn.

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