Microsoft Tries to End Search Also-ran Status

Offers incentives to corporate users, seeks mashup apps for Live Search

In an attempt to boost its disappointing share of the search market, Microsoft Corp. has started giving financial incentives to large corporate customers that use its Windows Live Search engine internally.

Microsoft also hopes to cut into Google Inc.’s search lead by encouraging Web developers and other programmers to create mashups — quickly assembled programs gluing together different data sources — that leverage Live Search and its Virtual Earth mapping and location service.

The incentive program is being tested with “a select number of enterprise customers based on the number of Web search queries conducted by their employees via Live Search,” Microsoft said in an e-mail statement last week.

The company added that it is giving the participating companies “service or training credits” in exchange for their usage of Live Search.

Microsoft needs to try something. Earlier this month, UBS Investment Research said Microsoft has been losing ground to both Google and Yahoo Inc. in online search revenue and the number of queries being processed.

At Microsoft’s 2007 MVP Global Summit in Seattle last week, Chairman Bill Gates acknowledged the company’s search difficulties during a Q&A session with attendees.

“We’re No. 3,” he said. “It’s not a position we’re used to being in, so clearly it’s a trend we’re committed to reverse.”

Microsoft is investing heavily in its core search technology and in extra services, such as one for giving users rebates from merchants they find via Live Search, Gates said.

Robert Bogue, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional from Indianapolis, said he sees some promise in Microsoft’s strategy. Bogue uses Google to do most text searches, but he said he prefers Virtual Earth’s ability to show 3-D views of mapped locations over the flat, top-down views of other mapping technologies.

Perez writes for the IDG News Service.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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