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Microsoft the Underdog

BruceClay June 25, 2009 Comments Off

If I asked you 10 years ago “Who is the bully, the giant, the dominant force of the tech world?” what would you have said?

You would have said Microsoft without missing a beat.

If I were to ask you that same question today what would your answer be? Google, anyone?

Certainly Microsoft’s no wimp, but over the last decade, Bill Gates’s aging technology corporation has been relegated to second-fiddle as Google now boasts the title of reigning tech titan. When the pinnacle of technology revolved around computer operating systems and software, no one could touch Microsoft. Once the Internet became the center of attention, Google was there to pick up the baton. And faster than anyone noticed, Microsoft went from being considered a power-hungry tyrant to a sympathy-inducing runner-up in the search game. Oddly enough, this could work in Microsoft’s favor.

Have you ever rooted for the underdog just because they’re the underdog? In sports, I do it all the time. There are few sports I follow fanatically (Actually, make that one sport: hockey. Those dudes got mad skillz. [Go Ducks! --Susan]) but when championships or tournaments come around, I have two questions I use to decide what team I’ll cheer for. Here’s a fancy-pants diagram of my decision making process:

Okay, I had way too much fun drawing that diagram so I sure hope it makes a point. There’s something about the long shot that sparks the American psyche. Yes, America loves a winner, but America loves the underdog, too. Maybe it comes back to the reason this country was founded: giving an opportunity to those who might otherwise have no chance. Whatever the reason, I think it’s a phenomenon worth identifying and observing in the search realm.

search engine market share pie chart

Microsoft’s former search product, Live Search, sat near the bottom of the search engine totem poll right up until last month. Fast forward to this month, when I hear little beside praise for Bing. Users are happy with the improved results and interface and advertisers are happy with the results they’re seeing from Bing as well.

Microsoft paired its opportunity as a sympathetic dark horse with a blitz of an ad campaign and a fresh new brand and, what do you know, Bing is looking much more active than its predecessor. While Microsoft may never have wanted to find itself out of the top spot, if they can swing popular opinion thanks to underdog-driven sympathy, we may eventually see a more even search playing field sooner than anyone expected.

[I think it's short lived goodwill. Microsoft's tried this tack before. They were the scrappy underdog back when I was the regular blogger. (Blog posts were much shorter back then.) --Susan] Thanks for making mine a little longer and a little smarter, Susan. :)

Copyright Bruce Clay, Inc. Blog – Microsoft the Underdog

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