Tom Warren:

While Microsoft is offering its discounted Surface RT hardware to schools directly, the Bing for Schools initiative also allows classrooms to earn free tablets for using the service. Classrooms, teachers, parents, or anyone can use the Bing Rewards program to collect credits towards free Surface RT tablets for schools. Each school will be rewarded a Surface RT when they reach 30,000 credits, which Microsoft says is the equivalent of around 60 Bing users using the service regularly for a month. The pilot kicks off today, and schools can register their interest in future plans through Microsoft’s Bing for Schools site.

Indirectly pay schools to get their students to use a service they don’t want to use by offering them a product they don’t want to use. Just sad.

Probably safe to largely throw away most of this piece as it’s by Scott Cleland, a known anti-Google lobbyist (often on behalf of Microsoft). But, there is at least one interesting thought:

Only some professional investors are aware that Microsoft has cumulatively lost about $15 billion trying to compete against Google in search advertising. Microsoft loses about $2 billion a year in search, while Google profits $25 billion gross a year in search. Not only are Google’s search revenues ten times bigger than Microsoft’s they are growing faster too, meaning Microsoft is falling further behind.

I’ve long been fascinated by Microsoft’s Bing loses. From a pure business perspective, it must be one of the worst run operations ever. But clearly, Microsoft just doesn’t care, they’re going after Google, costs be damned.

And while the new Facebook Graph Search deal may prove to be a huge boon, Cleland’s thought is fascinating: Microsoft simply shutting down Bing may do far more to hurt Google than all the billions they’ve wasted on it. Google saying “competition is only a click away” would have a lot less weight behind it.

Josh Constine:

While Google keeps cramming its search results pages full of tools and social content, today Bing confirmed with me the full roll out a redesigned search results page that completely clears the left sidebar, and replaces the tabbed header with a cleaner set of links. Bing Facebook integration is also more subtle now, instead of plastering names and faces beneath Liked results.

This more relaxing, dare I say zen, design gives Google a more claustrophobic and exhausting feel by comparison.

Bing now looks so much better. And smart.

Microsoft is going on the offensive. And they’re not just targeting Google Search, they’re targeting Gmail, Google Docs, and Chrome as well with their “Putting People First” ad campaign. 

Given Google’s stumbles, Microsoft’s timing is right. But these battles ultimately are ultimately still about the products themselves. It’s not enough to say you’re better, you have to actually be better to make users switch. And in the case of something like search, you have to be so much better that it’s noticeable beyond a doubt.

Despite what Microsoft may think and say, Bing isn’t there yet. And I’m not sure they’ll ever get by conventional means. But they do have a very real opportunity right now — not by getting better, but by Google getting worse. Which sounds absurd, but it’s happening.  

For their part, Google is attempting to counter these ads with their own ads. Which, unlike the Microsoft ads, are not a good idea. If you’re trying convince me that your privacy and data changes aren’t bad, the absolute last thing I’m going to believe is a paid advertisement.

Twitter Responds To Antitrust+

And out come the knives for Google’s forthcoming search changes that push Google+.

The only words you really need to know in the statement below emailed to me by Twitter: “We’re concerned”…

For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results anytime they wanted to find something on the Internet. 

Often, they want to know more about world events and breaking news. Twitter has emerged as a vital source of this real-time information, with more than 100 million users sending 250 million Tweets every day on virtually every topic. As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter; as a result, Twitter accounts and Tweets are often the most relevant results.

We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organizations and Twitter users.

We’ll see if Facebook responds as well. I’m sure they’re having the disucssion right now as to whether they should ignore this or take their shot. The problem they have is the relationship with Microsoft for Bing social search — but that’s different, it’s an agreement between two independent companies (though Microsoft owns a small share of Facebook via the investment a few years back).

Microsoft is likely in a similar boat. They probably want to say something but they have to think about their Facebook deal — and they have a Twitter deal too. Yahoo may respond, but will anyone really care? I’m sorry, but it’s true.

Meanwhile, look for a Google response to the Twitter response to the Google move…

Update: Sure enough, here’s Google’s response

It’s not just that Microsoft is losing money online, it’s that they’re bleeding it. And it’s getting worse, not better. The company has lost $9 billion online since they started breaking out the numbers in 2007 — $2.5 billion of that was in the past year

And Bing has accounted for $5.5 billion of the total losses. 

And what is Microsoft spending all that money on? Stealing market share from Yahoo, not Google. Yahoo is their search partner. Google is their enemy.

So what is Microsoft’s plan to make money on Bing? Essentially: get more people to use it.

Why didn’t anyone else think of that?

Microsoft’s real problem here is that in order to beat Google in search, they can’t just be better — they have to be exponentially better to get people to switch. And I’m just not sure that’s possible.

Microsoft is fighting a battle they’ve already lost simply by not taking it seriously earlier.

Billions in loses later, Microsoft may be starting to understand this. They have to compete with Google by not competing with them. They have to do something totally different and something Google can’t possibly copy.

Only one possibility comes to mind: Facebook. 

They’ve been doing stuff with Facebook already thanks to their small investment in the social network. But they need to completely blow it out. Facebook search sucks. But it won’t suck forever. Eventually, they’ll do it themselves. And they’ll do it in a way that will compete with Google by being completely different. It will not be Bing.

Microsoft needs to hurry. 

I’ve been saying this for months now. Let’s see if it’s any different when the New York Times actually prints it (this was in the paper yesterday).

The fact of the matter is that Microsoft is now spending well over two dollars for every one dollar they make with the Online Services Division. These losses have been going on for almost six years in a row now. And they’re getting worse, not better.

Microsoft spends a shit ton of money on Bing — mostly on marketing it. But I don’t know a person who actually uses it. That includes people who work at Microsoft. 

Some people clearly do, to be sure. But I’m not certain those people don’t also use Google. 

I simply do not see a compelling reason to use Bing. While they can claim certain small things make it better, the core product is still the same basic thing as what Google is. That’s never going to steal the share necessary away from Google for Bing to really make money.

The product has to be both radically different and radically better than Google for Bing to actually win. It’s neither. Google is already cemented.

Maybe Microsoft thinks spending $3 for every dollar earned will change their fortunes. I just don’t see it. They’re trying to market their way around a fundamental problem.

People often point to the Xbox division as one within Microsoft that was losing money before it started making it. But the reality is that there are many differences. One is that those losses only went on for a few quarters, not six years. Another is Halo.

Bing needs its Halo.

I’m also still not clear as to why Microsoft thinks they even need to be in search. Because Google is? Do they also want to morph into what is essentially an advertising company from a business perspective?

It’s almost as if Microsoft woke up one day a few years ago, realized they didn’t have a good online strategy, looked to who was killing it in the space (Google) and decided to copy that. What they should have done is focus on their actual strengths. Instead, they created a new weakness. 

Having said all of that, I actually think the notion of Microsoft trying to sell Bing now is silly (which is what authors Robert Cyran and Martin Hutchinson argue in favor of for NYT). It’s too late. They’re in it.

I think the course of action now may be to try radical things to attempt to really shake the industry up. Microsoft is already burning an insane amount of money and getting nothing in return, why not have some fun with it? Go crazy.

And for the love of god, focus on mobile. If that’s not yet where it’s at, that’s where it’s going.