by Thomas Wailgum

Opinion: Microsoft Punches Back with Bing and Zune — Google and Apple Yawn Uncontrollably

May 28, 20093 mins
Consumer ElectronicsEnterprise Applications

Let's boil this down, kids: Would it matter if Sony rolled out a new Betamax now?

The “Redmond Kid” has come out fighting this week! Microsoft announced, with great marketplace buzz, that two new versions of its products are on the way.

The Zune, its much maligned MP3 player that has had a checkered past, is getting an overhaul: Behold the Zune HD!* (*Available in Fall 2009!) (**We think!)

Not to get everyone too excited about Zune HD, which aims to go after Apple’s iPod Touch, the Zune marketing team confirmed to CNet that the “Zune HD isn’t going to be the super-device that some geeks had been hoping for,” notes CNet’s Matt Rosoff.

To further ratchet up the hype, notes the article: “This is Zune 3.0, a music-focused device with a nice touch screen.”

Wow. I’m completely underwhelmed. You? Can you also hear Apple executives’ boots shaking? By the way, Apple has historically owned roughly 70 percent of the marketshare in the MP3 space.

In the online search category, where Google maintains nearly 65 percent market dominance, Microsoft is giving a face lift to its disappointing Live Search product (which owns 8 percent of the market). Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed its new Bing search offering on Thursday. (It’s due to go live in early June.) And Microsoft will reportedly pour $100 million plus into marketing efforts for Bing.

The key takeaway on Bing, from Microsoft’s perspective, is that it will better understand users’ searches and provide more relevant search results—much more than Google does today.

Here’s my question, though: Do either of these product revamps really matter?

When I first considered the news on both Microsoft announcements, I equated it to Sony releasing a press announcement today stating: “Sony Launches New Version of Betamax Technology.”

So, just for fun, let’s speculate on which Microsoft product has a better chance of stealing market share from the incumbents Google and Apple?

To me, it seems like the search category is more ripe for Microsoft’s new offering and strategy. Google has gotten big and fat, it’s branching into areas away from core search, and it’s facing possible antitrust investigations by the government.

Certainly Microsoft won’t be toppling Google or Apple any time soon, but there’s plenty marketshare to go after—and plenty of room for improvement on Microsoft’s part.

But most folks find it hard to believe that Microsoft can now win the search war any better than they did in the 1990s. Outgoogle Google? Good luck with that.

And “Bing it” is not likely to pop out of most people’s mouths any sooner than “Betamax it.”

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