Microsoft and search – can Cashback be king?

The debut of Livesearch Cashback (such a catchy name) at Advance08 yesterday could been motivated  by one of three things:

  1. An innocent belief in the value of the idea
  2. A strategic ploy to increase trial and reappraisal of the Microsoft search platform
  3. A potentially elegant ploy to provoke Google into matching Microsoft’s offer at the immense expense implied by the relative market shares of the two parties

As a neutral you have to hope that the second option drove the decision and the announcement. The product alone will not drive a revolution but might just increase usage to a point that some of Microsoft’s product advantages start to stick.

If only it were that easy. There is now considerable behaviorial inertia favoring Google in search and owning the verb helps them a lot. Microsoft cannot do to Google what it did to Netscape through the desktop. This time it’s about performance, branding and communication. It is, if you like, an X Box problem rather than an Office problem. Microsoft had no ‘right’ to own the gaming space and no right to earn search. In search, product development and performance are going well but the brand and marketing are nowhere.


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