BP buys Google, Yahoo search words to keep people away from real news on Gulf oil spill disaster

BP spokesman Toby Odone confirmed to ABC News that the oil giant had in fact bought internet search terms. So now when someone searches the words ‘oil spill’,  on the internet, the top link will re-direct  them to BP’s official company website.

Yet another reason to use Bing. Do no evil, my ass. The article didn’t mention Bing, but I tried it and, in the US at least, all three search engines bring up BP’s link first for “oil spill”.

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Apple’s page about the new MobileMe Mail, now in beta.

Media_httpwwwapplecom_havob

Read about it at the above link.

I am, by far, most interested in the speed improvements. MobileMe Mail is slower than Yahoo! and Windows Live. Much slower. Embarrassingly so. Other features look nice, but if they don’t get the performance right they’ll never pull in any non-Mac users.

This is not a sign of anything: iPhone OS 4 Search branding removed in Safari

iLounge has pointed out that the “Google” branded search button in mobile Safari has been renamed “Search” in iPhone OS 4. Is this a sign that Apple is about to dump Google from mobile search?

No, it’s not.

Geez, the conspiracy kooks are out in force because Safari’s search button no longer says “Google” in iPhone OS 4.0, but rather just “Search”.

Gads! Apple hates Google. It’s a bitter, no-holds-barred war. Apple must be ready to introduce their own search engine. Quick, what other knee-jerk response can we get in before reality settles in?!!

The truth is the search button is only labeled Google if Google is the chosen search engine. I use Yahoo! as default on my iPhone; I’ll give you three guesses what the button’s labeled.

Bottom line is calling it Search makes a ton of sense. No conspiracy, no corporate smack down, no overriding new strategy. Get a grip, people.

Microsoft Doesn’t Need Yahoo Search, But Wouldn’t Mind Yahoo Talent

Interesting story from Mary Jo Foley on Microsoft picking up more Yahoo! executive talent. It’s interesting because of this comment:

I’ve seen a few industry watchers refer to these moves as Microsoft “poaching” Yahoo’s talent. But I wonder whether this is a case of Microsoft poaching or Yahoos jumping ship (or maybe a little bit of both)

I think she has a point; it’s almost certainly a little of both.

One thing is for sure, and I alluded to this in my review of Bing, I don’t think Microsoft needs to mess with caring (or even pretending to care) about Yahoo’s search business so much. Bing is a nice service, and just may pick up Yahoo’s business without even the hint of a buyout.

Heck, Bing even got Google to sit up and take notice.

Microsoft Bing: There’s a Lot Here to Like

Microsoft’s new (well, newly labeled, anyway) search engine, Bing, went live last week. I’ve been playing with it a few days and find it to be a very respectable search offering. This thing won’t be toppling Google anytime soon, but there are things about it worth noting that should push Google to begin improving their own offering.

Comparison – Results

There’s a great web site that runs Bing and Google side by side. It’s called Bingle, and it makes for quick results comparisons between the two. You enter the search term once, and it opens a split panel screen with both engines available for scrolling:

Bingle_sd860

I’ve found Google to have more overall results, but it includes more “garbage” than Bing in general. For example, see above that the very first link is for the Canon SD870. That’s not even the model I was searching for, yet Google lists it first.

Google also makes no attempt to categorize results for you; it’s just a (seemingly) never-ending list of links. By contrast, Bing’s sidebar on the left can come in handy. For example, it lists the sd870 as a “related search”.

Bing can take this sidebar approach to very helpful levels. For example, see the searches below for “Prius”:

Bing_Google_Prius

Bing’s sidebar lists quick links for finding Problems, Reviews, Dealers, Videos, etc. Further, the scrolling list of results is categorized in the same manner as the links. You’ll get a few of one category, then a few for the next, and so on. The idea being that most people find what they want in the first few links anyway. Compared to Bing’s presentation of results, Google’s Lord of the Flies approach is ungainly by comparison.

Further, Bing provides a nice popup that tells you more about the site when you hover over the left edge of the link. You get details without having to load it, which should cut down on “bad” links. Here’s the popup when hovering over the Prius Edmonds link:

Bing_URL_Popup

Some will argue that Google still “wins” the search because it returned 17.5M results to Bing’s 2M, but I’m not buying it. This can’t be a simple numbers game when the numbers get this high. You can’t possibly go through so many links, especially since Google doesn’t even attempt to break them down. At some point one has to question whether 2M results with convenient subsets of the data and site popups is better than 17.5M you’re essentially left to sift through on your own. The more you get used to it, the more you’ll want the former.

Comparison – Image Search

I also like the way Bing presents images better than Google:

Bingle Image 1

Note that the sidebar gives you more choices of image options than Google’s top options. Also note that the thumbnails can be one of three sizes (shown is the smallest) to see more at a time.

I also like the fact that the images are presented cleanly, with no distracting text, etc. which I don’t need for an initial review of the images. However, once I see an image I like, I need only hover the cursor over it and up pops the relevant information:

Bingle Image 2

Further, if I want the display to be more Google-like, there is a forth image size option that does so, shown here:

Bingle Image 3

Finally, Bing does not have you go back and forth through pages as Google does. Rather, you simply scroll through them, and it ads more as you scroll down. I like this a lot.

Conclusion

Sure, Bing has a way to go to beat Google — if only in the mindset of those who don’t think Google could be improved upon. While the results are good for restaurants, consumer goods, etc., they seem a little spartan for less consumer-related stuff. Then again, as a “decision-engine” it was wise to start more with consumer goods anyway. However, Yahoo! might want to be concerned. With this under their belt, Microsoft has less reason to talk to Yahoo! now.

I think Bing is an impressive offering, and have already bookmarked it for frequent use. I also think Google should get working on a sidebar — or something similar — of their own.

What’s Worse Than Microhoo? Yahoogle!

yahoo-google2.jpg

So it looks like Yahoo is going to reject Microsoft’s bid. I, like seemingly everybody else, think the merger would be a mess (except for Google) so it’s probably just as well Yahoo may reject it.

However, what happens next could be just as troubling.

First, the shareholders may revolt (with a little help from Redmond) because they’re seeing dollar signs, so it could get ugly for Yahoo’s board. But let’s assume that’s not the case– that the shareholders believe the Microsoft deal is only short-term gain, and they’re hanging on for the long-term — than what?

Well, the article gives two possibilities. One of them is:

Yahoo is examining… ways to wrest a higher offer from Microsoft.

Yahoo claims their rejection is because the offer isn’t high enough — that Microsoft “massively undervalues” them. That’s almost laughable, so good luck with that. If Microsoft wants them bad enough I think they’d take more hostile actions, not get all sweet and up the ante when it’s already plenty.

Besides, with the initial deal rejected the board will be that much more resistant to any new deal because they know if MS takes over they’re toast. This rejection seals their fate should MS come out on top.

Yahoo and MS can play these kinds of games all they want for all I care. It will be fascinating to watch. It’s the other possibility mentioned that frightens me:

Yahoo might seek help from rivals, soliciting other bids or seeking partnerships with… Google to thwart Microsoft, according to analysts including Stanford Group Co.’s Clayton Moran.

Yes, a couple of other companies were mentioned with Google, but the search giant’s name continually creeps into this conversation. It’s almost as if a trial balloon is being floated.

The New York Times reported Feb. 4 that Google CEO Eric Schmidt contacted Yang to suggest a partnership between their companies. A partnership with Google may allow Yahoo to outsource its search service, shedding the costs of running its own search engine and sharing ad revenue with its larger rival.

I had read this, but at the time thought there may be little way for Yahoo to get out of the MS deal. If it didn’t go through I figured it would be because MS reconsidered and withdrew it. Now that it might be rejected outright, perhaps the Google talk is a bit more serious than initially thought.

While a search and advertising partnership with Google is an option, it would face stiff regulatory scrutiny,

Ya think!? Frankly, this shouldn’t even need scrutiny. You have #1 and #2 in search, people. This is a no-brainer, can’t-let-happen scenario.

The U.S. Justice Department is “interested” in reviewing the antitrust implications of a Yahoo-Microsoft transaction,

If the DoJ is only “interested” in reviewing a Yahoo-Microsoft transaction, then I would think they’re peeing their pants at the thought of a Yahoo-Google agreement.

Look, those who read this blog know I’m no fan of Microsoft. There are numerous reasons for this that would entail an article of their own (or the ones I’ve already written). But that doesn’t mean I’d rather Yahoo be in bed with Google.

Bottom line is I don’t want to be so busy in a perceived thwarting of the monopoly of the 90’s that I’m too stupid to see I’m building the monopoly to replace it.

Google is already getting close enough to keep an eye on. I’m not sure I’d be happy with even so much as a handshake between them and Yahoo. There is far too much that can be done behind the scenes.

Microsoft and Yahoo!: My $.02 Worth.

microhoo.jpg

Everybody and their little brother is all over this. Heck, it even managed to knock all the MacBook Air fawning/despising off the charts. Like most major issues, there seem to be opinions lining up on one side or the other, with few voices in the middle.

First off, this deal is not done. One has to think there were better ways for Microsoft to go about it. Seriously, are these the best steps in trying to “merge” with another tech company:

  1. Talk for 18 months until you’re blue in the face but got nowhere.
  2. Know that the company does not really want to merge with you (someone, yes, but not you).
  3. Know that they have other interested parties, may even be somewhat close to deals, and then strike.
  4. Know they just had a bad quarter, so strike.
  5. Make an offer and tell their board they have only two days to respond. Two days!? That’s a big “screw you” if ever there was one.
  6. Go public with the offer.

There’s little question Microsoft is counting on the shareholders to be short-sighted/stupid/greedy enough to see the big dollars and mow down any objections by the board. Sure, the board may resist it that much more, but Microsoft is relying on their name (which some people still think means something), and their money to overcome that.

If the above works, while they may skate through US approval the EU will be another hurdle. It’s possible that even with board “approval” this deal could be scuttled or altered considerably.

But let’s assume we get past all that and the merger does take place. What’s next? The real debate is in what we can expect from “Microhoo” (Micro Who?). There has been a lot written from the usual suspects, and it bears discussion.

Paul Thurrott weighed in with his thoughts on it. Paul loves it. A little too enthusiastically, if you ask me. He’s realistic about it being a hostile bid, etc., but ultimately concludes:

I support Microsoft’s efforts to purchase Yahoo and combine that company’s assets with its Live services business. Both companies have an interesting mix of online products and services, but Microsoft desperately needs to embrace the move to cloud computing and stop hedging its bets in that area by focusing too much on its traditional and aging core businesses

Agreed about MS getting out of their “aging core business”. But that’s not so easily bought. MS has taken their shots at the web, search, ads, etc. and they’re just not good at it. Buying Yahoo! won’t necessarily make them any better. It may, however, make Yahoo! bad (or at least worse).

Make no mistake, Microsoft has pulled off plenty of successful acquisitions. PowerPoint was a Mac product they made a cornerstone of their Office dynasty. The Visio grab was a success. And Hotmail. Oh, and there’s this little browser known as Mosaic… Granted, these are trivial compared to something like Yahoo, but those immediately writing this off solely by virtue of it being an acquisition should be looking further.

Fake Steve Jobs posted his analysis as well. Typical of a FSJ essay, it’s well-written and has cute analogies (mating elephants!). I think FSJ’s view will be the popular one among not only Google and Apple supporters, but among naysayers in general. FSJ concludes thusly:

Ballmer said he loved when his rivals merged, because whenever the also-rans in any market start teaming up they might as well be waving a white flag. Because it’s over. You’ve beaten them. You’ve driven them to despair. They haven’t been able to beat you on their own; there’s no way they’ll do it together…

I’ll never forget it. But I guess he has.

Let’s not read too much into Ballmer’s comments, shall we? He said what you typically say when competitors band against you. Big deal. As a CEO, all your competition’s moves are stupid, desperate, too much overlap, incompatible, will hurt consumers, etc. Meanwhile, all your acquisitions are strategic, a good match, synergistic, etc. It’s corporate speak. So what? FSJ hanging his essay on that is a bit weak. Besides, if you want to see some real corporate speak — with serious undertones of fear-mongering — just look at the foo being slung by Google in response to this deal.

FSJ (and others) are absolutely right when they say this merger is huge. But no one disputes that. In fact, the different cultures only scratch the surface of the thing. The different technologies are likely an even bigger barrier.

Microsoft interfacing with FeeeBSD? That’s gotta be a shock to the Redmond system. They ported all their Hotmail stuff over after they acquired it, and that was a painful process. Yet it was nothing compared to this. They can’t really expect to bring Yahoo! all under Windows, can they? No way. And yet, if not then they have to make it interoperable. How do you do that gracefully when you’ve been claiming such an OS is inferior, less secure, etc. all your life?

While Thurott and FSJ took opposite positions, and many will line up in one camp or another, I much prefer the articles from Microsoft Watch’s Joe Wilcox (he’s written several, and isn’t done). I recommend the series of articles he’s written so far. They’re the kind of writing for which I used to have Microsoft Watch in my Blogroll. Some time last quarter Joe became a raving Apple-basher (the change was pretty dramatic) but I still subscribe to the feed; articles like these are why I continue to do so.

For example, Joe’s first question is why Microsoft made the deal now:

The question isn’t trivial. Microsoft has been looking at a possible Yahoo merger for about 18 months.

The announcement had to come no later than today, or not any time soon. …Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell are scheduled to offer their semiannual Microsoft report to financial analysts on Monday in New York… By announcing the bid today, Microsoft already has set some of the agenda for Monday’s important meeting, giving financial analysts the weekend to number-crunch the deal and prepare questions for Ballmer and Liddell.

Subsequent articles in the series discuss whether Microsoft had to make this move, the huge integration issues faced with the merger, and if Yahoo! is really worth the risk.

In Joe’s world, this deal is just as huge, hostile, challenging, difficult, etc. as anybody else is saying, but it can’t be conveniently summed up. It’s not some sort of panacea as Thurrott seems to imply, nor is it impossible as FSJ would have you believe. Joe looks at it from numerous angles, and in detail others have not, with interesting views on them all.

I certainly don’t agree with all his views. For example, I agree the online ad market is young, there are many Internet ad sources not yet begun, and Google does not have all the tools and answers; but stop telling me this means Microsoft is not competing with Google.

But I appreciate Joe’s articles because they focus not on the black and white points others have, but rather the gray areas in which this deal will ultimately prove effective, or a disaster. As always, the devil’s in the details.