Ballmer Calls Search A Five-Year Task

    September 26, 2008

The latest Microsoft-related news has been more about Seinfeld, Vista, and Windows 7 than anything else.  Steve Ballmer recently made some public comments on another subject, though, and it turns out that the CEO remains as committed as ever to competing with Google in search.

Stockholders just shouldn’t feel they’ve been promised an immediate turnaround.  "It’s a five-year task.  It’s a long-term task," Ballmer said, according to Ina Fried.  And given the disparity in market share – Hitwise pegs Google’s and Microsoft’s percentages at 71.01 and 5.32, respectively – even this seems optimistic.

Case Leaves Blogger

Ballmer may be placing his faith in an acquisition-centric strategy.  Microsoft has made quite a lot of noise about its purchase and (partial) integration of Powerset.  Now, in the next year, "Probably my guess is we’ll buy another 20, 25 companies," Ballmer estimated.

"The sweet spot for us is under a billion more than over a billion," he continued.  "That’s not actually a financial statement.  But companies under a billion are basically usually technology and people.  Once you get to a billion, you’re buying customer-based and sales force and brand and all of the rest.  We tend to like and do better with the former than the latter."

Successful or not, then, it looks like Microsoft’s five-year quest will keep the smaller end of the search market an interesting place.