Search industry watcher spanks Microsoft

Danny Sullivan, one of the most influential voices in search, has clearly had it up to his eyeballs with Microsoft, in general, and Steve Ballmer, in particular.

In a Search Engine Land blog post this morning headlined "Tough Love For Microsoft Search," Sullivan pays due respect to the front-liners in Microsoft's development ranks, but pulls no punches when confronting the company's upper management. A good chunk of his indictment is built upon what he sees as Ballmer's refusal to personally get out in front of search-centric audiences -- in particular, Sullivan's own conference. He acknowledges that this complaint may make him "sound like a big-headed ass****," -- and, frankly, it will to some -- but there is much more to his case than failing to land Ballmer as a keynote speaker.

From the post: 

The fact that Ballmer hasn't made the time is just part of my feeling that search is a "chore" or "homework" that Microsoft feels from the top down that it has to do. If indeed search is Ballmer's "favorite business," as he told the BBC in October, it sure doesn't show in my reading from afar.

Microsoft at its core is an operating system and software company. These still generate tons of revenue. Then along comes Google out of nowhere making all this money off of search and starting to encroach into the Microsoft OS/software areas. You could almost hear the groan from Redmond. "Well, I guess we have to do this search thing."

In the post -- a whopping 5,600 words -- Sullivan offers Microsoft all kinds of advice as to how it might improve its search offerings and market standing. He concludes with this challenge:

More than anything else, I want that clear signal that Microsoft is fully in the fight. Don't tell me; show me. We've had enough being told about all the grand things to come. Do it. Change the brand; give the home page a search focus; stop talking about those ad dollars and talk more about providing better search for consumers. This would show me that as an entire company, Microsoft really is competing with all its heart-and-soul, a corporate shift I feel it must make to succeed.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.