The following quote is from a memo Satya Nadella, Microsoft SVP of Research and Development of the Online Services Division, sent to all Microsoft employees back in March:
In spite of the progress made by search engines, 40 percent of queries go unanswered; half of queries are about searchers returning to previous tasks; and 46 percent of search sessions are longer than 20 minutes. These and many other learnings suggest that customers often don’t find what they need from search today.
That is a lot of queries that could be served better elsewhere!
Microsoft of course believe that this is what will enable them to catch Google, and when I first heard Balmer say something similar 3 years ago I thought they had a shot. Three years later the gap between Google and Microsoft in search has if anything got wider and I’m thinking that whilst Microsoft entered many software markets late and ended up dominant the web is different. It has different types of economies of scale and changes at a much faster rate than older technology markets, and it is this that I suspect is catching Microsoft out.