Bing continues to make modest gains in latest comScore figures, but is it enough?

Search is costing Microsoft billions

In the latest comScore search engine market share statistics, Bing continued a slow but steady climb upward over the last several monthly reports. The latest numbers showed a modest 0.2 percent increase from December to 16.5 percent, but Microsoft has to wonder if this really enough to justify its massive investment in building and maintaining the search engine.

The problem for Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is that Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) also continues to make modest gains on its already substantial market share lead. Google increased 0.3 percent to 67 percent. The gains for both companies appear to come at the expense of the lower tier players including Yahoo, Ask and AOL.

Yahoo, which uses Bing as its search engine, continues to lose market share and was down 0.1 percent to 12.1 percent, while Ask ended up with 2.8 percent, down 0.2 percent,  and AOL brought up the rear with 1.7 percent, down 0.1 percent.

You can see the full picture below:

comScore reports that when you put the total number of searches together powered by each of the two top search engines, Google has 69.3 percent of the total organic search, up 0.2 percent, and Bing has 25.6 percent when you include other search engines, such as Yahoo powered by Bing.

Microsoft has to be pleased that Bing's market share at least continues to rise, but even with the slow and steady progress, it has to wonder if it's worth the billions of dollars it's investing in the search engine. Last Fall, Henry Blodget of Business Insider suggested Bing might be better off merging Bing with Yahoo, which runs Bing as its underlying search engine anyway. It's hard not agree with this argument.

As Blodget suggested, Microsoft is dealing multiple attacks on its core Windows and Office business and it would probably be better off concentrating company resources on staving off those attacks instead of trying to maintain a search engine business in which it will never come close to catching Google.

In July, The Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft took a whopping $6.2 billion write-down attributed mostly to the failed 2007 deal in which it bought online ad broker aQuantive Inc., hoping it would give it the tools to compete with Google for online ads. It was a failed strategy.

While Bing has made some nice innovations to the search engine and forced Google to make some changes, it's still bleeding money. It may be time to rethink its search engine strategy and put the money to better use to bolster its mobile and cloud strategy.

For more information:
- see the comScore January search engine market share press release

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