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Microsoft targets Google's mobile dream with Bing

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Microsoft is building Bing with a view towards beating Google in an area its internet rival has highlighted as ripe for massive growth: mobile search.

One of the chief architects behind Microsoft's deal to take over Yahoo!'s search has said Bing is being built to present results suited to mobile phones.

Charles Songhurst, Microsoft's general manager for corporate strategy, told the Jeffries Annual Technology Conference in New York, New York that Microsoft had "internalized a lot of what Google has been saying" in recent years on mobile search being worth more than PC-based search.

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt in 2007 predicted the ubiquity of mobile devices meant Google's revenue from mobile search would eclipse search on a PC in years, not decades. The enabler would be growth in more sophisticated and affordable smart phones.

Songhurst pointed out that Bing returns slightly fewer results per search but slightly more data per result, with results being location - and geo-aware.

The thinking seems to be to make mobile search suited to devices whose screen and keys limit the amount of scrolling and clicking, while serving shoppers on the go.

Songhurst said Bing could carve out a "good" 10 and 20 per cent of market share simply on differentiation, by delivering focused search results for individual markets and people. He noted the search market is more differentiated and less homogeneous "than we thought."

According to Songhurst, marketing will make the difference in helping Bing - combined with Yahoo! - increase their market share against Google. He said while Bing is available internationally, the big difference is Microsoft hasn't made an international marketing push.

Microsoft has committed to spend $100m on marketing for Bing, and the US has already seen TV ads promoting Microsoft's search engine. Songhurst indicated, however, that Microsoft would not spend more money on advertising internationally until it's learned its lessons in the domestic market of the US. Microsoft wants to find out what types of consumers become loyal and who churn back to other search engines.

Also, he noted Microsoft wants to get the search algorithms right for each market before promoting Bing locally. A key component of the Microsoft deal to buy Yahoo! is that Bing drives search in the markets served by Yahoo! during the next 10 years, which will give Microsoft time to build and tune the Bing algorithms to improve searches and returns.

Bootnote

European antitrust regulators are reported to have asked Microsoft and Yahoo! for more information about the search-engine deal Songhurst was involved in negotiating. Reuters reported the European Union inquiry was more explorative than investigative. The move comes after US regulators also requested more information. ®

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