Ballmer discusses Bing's place in the market

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Yesterday at the Search Engine Marketing Expo, in Santa Clara, Calif., Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was interviewed by Danny Sullivan, Editor in Chief at Search Engine Land, chief sponsors of the event. 

In a wide-ranging interview, Ballmer acknowledged the obvious, that Google was number one, and that it wasn't likely Bing would ever catch them. Of course, he didn't come right and say it because he's far too good a politician for that. When asked specifically by Sullivan if he would be happy being number two, Ballmer responded, "There's no good answer. We've got great long-term optimism. Tomorrow's goal is to gain a few points, a tenth here, a tenth there and just keep working and working."

In fact, a few points are really all of they've gained since launching last year to much fanfare and a top-dollar ad campaign. I've said many times that Bing is a decent search engine. It looks pretty and it has some very nice features, but Google's market share numbers have remained steady since the launch, so it's not hurting Google a bit.

Sullivan asked the obvious questions about whether Yahoo! search can survive Bing. Catching Yahoo! actually is a far more realistic goal than catching Google, but Ballmer obviously couldn't just write off his big partner. When asked about this, he said, "The number one objective is for Bing to be the number one product that it can be. There's an advantage to having the power of two, as opposed to the power of one." 

Ballmer is a slick politician, which is his job as CEO of a big company like Microsoft. He has to talk up his products and sell the company to the world, but he obviously knows that trying to catch Google is an unrealistic goal. They are the number one search engine, and it's going to take something monumental to change that. For now, Bing is just a small part of what Microsoft does. It's not their core business, and gaining a couple of points of market share here and there is a good thing.

If Microsoft can continue to push Google to innovate, in the end, it will have succeeded in acting as a check against the search giant, and as consumers, that's not a bad outcome (although it's probably not the one Ballmer would admit to be hoping for).

For more information:
- see the Search Engine Land Live Blog post from SMX West

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