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Posts tagged with: Microsoft

Microsoft Montage – Create Your Own Online Montage

Microsoft has recently demonstrated a new product of their Fuse Labs (a research-focused division of Microsoft) named “Montage“. According to them, Montage is a new way to organize and curate web’s information. As the name suggests it is basically a ‘montage’ that you can easily create & share online based on any topic of your choice.

montage - jessica alba

As you can see from the screenshot above, I tried the service quickly and made a montage of “Jessica alba”. Basically after you specify a topic, it automatically get relevant news/blog entires/pictures/videos/tweets on that topic and displays them in a ‘magazine-like’ layout. It also allows you to easily change the layout/design & gives you the ability to move things around.

Below is a short video introduction of the service:

So try it out and see if you like it.


Bingbot – Bing Web Crawler

bing-web-crawl-bingbotBing has just announced that they are going to change the name of the bing web crawler (a.k.a user agent) to Bingbot. In the past Bing’s user agent was known as MSNBot.

Microsoft’s Bing Crawl & index team has been testing a beta bot for quite some time along side their regular MSNBot, and now they have decided to remove the beta name from the Bing crawler and change the name of the crawler to reflect Microsoft’s new brand for search – Bing. They also highlighted that instead of the old msnbot 2.0b showing up in your server logs, the updated user agent will be:

Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; bingbot/2.0 +http://www.bing.com/bingbot.htm)

The HTTP header From field will also change as shown below:

From: msnbot(at)microsoft.com will become From: bingbot(at)microsoft.com

Even though they are making this change, bingbot will still honor robots.txt directives written for msnbot, so webmasters are not required to make any changes in the robots.txt file.

If you feel that your site is not being indexed properly, or your search traffic from Bing has decreased dramatically you can contact the bing crawl & index team at: bingbot@microsoft.com.


IE8 Vomiting Commercial goes Viral

ie-8

Yesterday I was listening to my favorite Tech Podcast – TWIT (This Week in Tech) and Veronica Belmont of Tekzilla was one of the guest on that show along with Tom Merritt and few others.

Anyway Veronica was talking about a Internet Explorer 8 advertisement, where a lady vomits over and over again after watching an awful video(probably something like 2 girl and a cup) from her husband’s browser history. This ad was was basically made to promote the IE8 “Browser for the Better” campaign.

Anyway but it seems like that the vomiting scene was so gross that Microsoft received several complaints about the video and eventually took it down. However that really didn’t stop people from spreading it on the social video sharing sites like – Youtube.

Visible Measures, a reputed video measurement firm reports that, even after the O.M.G.I.G.P (Oh My God, I’m Gonna Puke) ad was taken off by Microsoft, that video, just one part of the much larger campaign, accounted for 57% of the entire campaign’s video views!

Yeah I agree that the video is pretty gross, but Visible Measures suggests that this may have been Microsoft’s plan from the beginning.

They writes:

We’re left to wonder whether or not this was part of the plan all along: publish a controversial though on-message ad, create some heated dialogue, apologize for offending customers, take it down, and drive big viewership numbers … from online video audiences copying and reposting the spot. Might this be the best result for Microsoft in the end?

Watch the video at your own risk:


Microsoft Office 2010, The Movie

microsoft-office-2010 I never really understood the way Microsoft handles their PR. They spent millions on advertising when they launched Bing (Microsoft’s Search Engine), and now it looks like they are out with yet another promo video, but this time for Microsoft Office 2010!

By reading some of the comments about this video, it felt like everyone hates the idea of Microsoft spending so much money on advertising which they could perhaps use to do other things (Hint: Make their product pricing more flexible and not sky high?)

But Anyway, I must say that the video is really amazing. Microsoft gave the job to YouTuber Dennis Liu of Traffik Film Works.

Watch the video and I bet you will be amazed too-

After seeing the trailer, I kinda wish if they could actually try making the movie. It would be so damn funny!


Bing Translator

bing-translator Do you ever come across a situation where you need to quickly translate a page or some text which is not in the language that you speak? Then you should really give the new Bing Translatorhttp://www.bing.com/translator a try.

Bing Translator currently supports about 15 languages including – English, Dutch, French, Chinese, Arabic, German, Italian, Japanese Korean, Russian, Spanish and many more. If you have previously used any translation service like Google Translate, then you probably already know how to use it. Bing Translator has a very easy to use interface, just dump some text or a URL in the left hand box on the page and select the source language (auto-detect is default) and select the language that you wish your text/website to be translated to and finally click translate!

bing translator screenshot

This neat thing about this particular translation tool is – if you are translating a website, bing automatically opens both the original and the translated page side by side in a frame. If you click on a particular section of the page it also highlights that portion of the page in the translated version. So in terms of usability, I personally find Bing Translator awesome. However Google Translate supports more languages at this point of time but I’m sure that Bing will catch up with them in no time.

bing translation example

So if you ever need any translation done try Bing Translator!


Bing Webmaster Center

bing-webmaster-centerYesterday I wrote a review about Bing and how this new search engine from Microsoft really impressed me.

Today I’ll be reviewing the new Bing Webmaster Center – www.bing.com/webmaster which is sort of like an all-in-one dashboard of the webmasters for the Bing Search Engine. Previously a similar version of the Webmaster Center was known as Windows Live Webmaster Center. Google and Yahoo both has similar dashboard – Google Webmaster Central & Yahoo Site Explorer.

What is Bing Webmaster Center?

Just like any other Webmaster dashboard, Bing webmaster center has many tools targeted towards the webmaster community that anyone can use to access his own website’s information & other useful details as recorded by Bing.

So if you are a webmaster and want to know how Bing is looking at your website, how its ranking your pages, which pages are more valued than others, what are your inbound & outbound links then this dashboard is a must have.

Why should you Signup for Bing Webmaster Center?

Previously most of the people never really bothered to optimize their pages for MSN/Live Search (which is now Bing). Due to the very small market share, Microsoft Search was never popular among the webmasters. However according to the Stat Counter’s global stat of search market share, Bing’s popularity seems to be growing exponentially as it has already overtaken Yahoo’s usual number #2 spot after Google.

stat-counter-stats-bing

Now you may say that this is probably because of the initial ‘hype’ and their expensive media advertisements, however if you read my Bing Review where I concluded that Bing is a pretty good alternative to Google, then you may think otherwise.

The main advantage of Bing would be its Mass reach to the general population. Do you know what is the very first thing people do when they buy a new computer? I remember reading an article where they had a huge list — Installing Anti Virus, Installing IM, Installing Firefox and somewhere in the middle of the list I remember reading “Changing the default search engine of IE back to Google!”. That didn’t strike me as odd even for a second, in fact if I were to make my own list, I think It would be ranked between #1 – 3.

Microsoft has a OS market share of over 90%, which all comes with Internet Explorer as their default browser. And when it comes to Browser market share, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has a market share close to 70%.

So you can imagine, if Microsoft’s new search engine Bing sucks even a bit less compared to their previous search versions – Live/MSN, many people may not bother to switch to Google or any other search provider for that matter. My first impression of Bing is – its going to stick, and Google is going to see a bit of competition after many years of market dominance.

So before everyone starts to realize that getting your site up in the Bing Search Engine has a lot of value for your business, you should start to look at some of the very basic things that you can do to make sure that bing is crawling and indexing your site properly and certainly there is no better way to monitor it than using their very own tool that they have provided to the community – Bing Webmaster Center.

How to Signup for Bing Webmaster Center?

Signing up with Bing Webmaster Center is very easy and FREE. The only thing that you will need is a Windows Live ID. Typically if you have a @hotmail.com, its already good enough. However, if you want you can also use @gmail.com or any other email address for that matter and make it a Windows Live ID.

Step 1: Go to http://www.bing.com/webmaster and Sign-in with your Windows Live ID

Step 2: Once you are inside the dashboard, you will need to add in your website. You will need to provide a web url (www.domain.com), your sitemap address (www.domain.com/sitemap.xml) and the webmaster’s email address for communication purpose.

Step 3: Once site has been successfully added, you will need to verify the ownership of their site by following any of the following verification method – Meta Tag Authentication ior XML file Authentication. Both the authentication is pretty simple and straight forward.

Step 4: After successful verification, you should be able to see your website listed in your dashboard.

What can Bing Webmaster Center do?

Currently, Bing Webmaster Center contains the following tools and features to support webmasters to access data and manage their websites on Bing:

1. Robot.txt Validation – This tool allows webmasters to check their robots.txt file for any incompatibilities with MSNBot that may affect how their site is indexed on Bing. Read more on Robot.txt Validation on bing.

2. HTTP Verifier – This tool basically lets you check whether your webserver has HTTP compression and conditional GET enabled to reduce bandwidth uses with browsers that support these technology. Read more about these features before you decide to play with them.

3. Site Summery – Bing Webmaster Center, also shows a nice site summary for each of your sites which includes – Last crawl date, total number of indexed pages, domain score, top 5 pages of your domain along with their page score crawl date and so on.

bing-webmaster-center-site-summary

In case you are wondering what domain score is, its basically just a measurement of how authoritative Bing views your domain to be, with five green boxes being the highest rating and five empty boxes being the lowest. Similarly Page score is the same thing but instead of the domain level the measurement is done on the page level.

4. Crawl Issues – This section allows webmasters to find out about any issues Bing discovered while crawling and indexing your site. This information can really help you track down missing or bad links, find pages blocked from our index by your robots.txt file, identify URLs that may be too long, and isolate page with content-types that are not supported by Bing. You can read more on the crawl issues here.

5. Backlinks – This is definitely a very neat and useful tool. Since Google takes quite a while to update the backlinks, most of the webmasters depends quite a lot on Yahoo Site Explorer to check for inbound links. I found Bing’s Back link checker pretty handy and accurate. You can use this tool to find out which webpages (including your own) are linking to your site. This information can help you identify who is talking about your site, useful information for learning more about your potential audience or customer base. They also have a filtering option where you can exclude results from a domain or show only results from a single domain. You can also specify a domain (microsoft.com), a sub-domain (technet.microsoft.com), or a top-level domain (.com).

6. Outbound links – Just like the backlinks page, Outbound links page gives you information about web pages your site is linking to.

7. Keywords – Bing has a Keywords tool which basically shows you how your website performs against searches for a specific keyword or key phrase. This tool is useful for understanding how users (who often choose websites based on keywords searches) might find your website. You can use this keywords tool to e the Keywords tool to also get webpage scores for a keyword or key phrase. This tool enables you to evaluate the webpage score for a given keyword or key phrase for the webpages in your website. The webpage score is a measure of how often a webpage is returned when a user is searching based on that keyword or key phrase. You can easily review webpage scores for a given keyword or key phrase, type the keyword or key phrase in the Keywords box, and then click Search.

8. Sitemaps – You can use sitemaps to give Bing a list of URLs to index for your site. Simply enter the sitemap URL and click submit to send your sitemap to Bing. Bing also has a sitemap ping service which allows you to nudge bing whenever your site updates. To notify MSNBot when you change an existing sitemap or add a new one, enter the following in your browser:

http://www.bing.com/webmaster/ping.aspx?siteMap=[your sitemap web address]

And thats pretty much it! So what you waiting for? Sign up with Bing Webmaster Center now!

Don’t forget to check out Bing Webmaster Community and the Bing Webmaster blog for more news & Updates.


Microsoft’s Bing.com Search Engine

bing-search-logoFinally the past speculations became a reality – Microsoft has re-branded their live search and came up with a completely new and innovative engine called Bing, which can be accessed at bing.com.

The reason I call it innovative and new is because, this is the first time I’m seeing something positive from Microsoft. At least now they are trying to look straight instead of trying to eat out other companies.

They did a complete re-brand of their Live Search which was previously known as MSN and sometime last year there was a rumor that they wanted to call it Kumo (which probably would have been a complete branding disaster in my opinion).

But luckily they came to their senses and named their revamped Search Engine -> Bing. Now couldn’t they just work on their existing brand “Live” instead of creating a whole new brand “Bing”? Well probably they could, but i really don’t wish to go into any debate on which would have been better and such. They have re-branded their search to Bing already and that’s how it is (and hopefully that’s how its going to stay..).

My only advice to Microsoft would be to stick to a brand and give more emphasize on the core of the product/service that they are providing. If people are not using their search engine, definitely there is a reason behind it and changing names and creating fancy TV ads doesn’t make the problem go away. After a while people eventually figures out that this new hyped brand is actually the same shitty MSN search.

Now this post is becoming a bit ‘anti-microsoft’ … so let me change my approach for a bit and say what I feel about Bing.

Bing Search is Awesome!

Yes I said it! I never thought I’d complement a search engine that is not Google. But I guess I just did. The reason I’m probably the last one to report this Bing story in the Blogosphere is because while everyone was busy writing about Bing on their blogs, I was doing some extensive testing with Bing. I have played with the engine day and night, making it exhausted and taking it to a level that my ip was probably blocked out from Bing for a while.

And after comparing all the data, I can say that Bing is awesome and It is a pretty good alternative for Google & Yahoo Search. But is it perfect? – Hell no! There are tons of issues with bing, that I’d definitely address in my blog (which is why i even created a new category here called “bing”, where all my bing related posts will go).

My Take on Bing.com

bing-search-engine-home

There are many things that I like about Bing. None of them is probably original, majority of the features that I’ll highlight here are probably already implemented inside Google & Yahoo. But I don’t think for a user its important to know who has implemented what first and so on. As long as the search engine is user friendly and has everything that a user needs – he will be happy to use it. These are some of the things which bing has really impressed me with:

1. Speed: Bing.com is pretty fast, the home page has a high quality image which takes a bit of time to load on slow connections. However, when you put in a search query and click search the result page comes almost instantly – just like Google. Previously with both Msn & Live search speed was a major issue. People loves Google because of its lightning speed. Well certainly Bing is almost catching up with Google on that regard. Since Bing is still new I believe they can still do a lot more tweaks and make the engine even faster in future.

2. Auto Suggestion: Bing automatically suggests search queries as you type in the search box (very similar to what Google does now). Its a very neat feature which saves a lot of time when you are searching for something very obvious but unsure of its spelling and how to phrase it properly and so on.

bing-auto-suggest

3. Look and Feel: Many people complained about the design of Microsoft’s previous search engines. But personally this time I have found Bing’s design very soothing and consistent throughout their site. The high quality picture on the home page does make it look very cool compared to Google’s simplistic design (However Ask.com has been doing this for a long time already and they even let users to choose their own background).

4. Best Match: Microsoft calls this feature of Bing – “Best Match”, which basically refers to the ability to get relevant information instantly without leaving the search results page. Google has been doing this for a long time for many queries like time (e.g. Time Tokyo), currency conversion (e.g. 1000 USD = ? EUR) and also flight and package tracking of different providers.

Apparently Bing.com also has couple of neat best match queries to get relevant information quickly. Best Match results include customer service numbers for retail sites, the ability to track a package right from the search page, deep links to common pages within the site and much more.

bing-best-match

5. Site Preview: This neat feature of Bing allows you to hover over a search result to see a preview of the site’s content, which helps you determine whether the site is likely to contain the information you’re looking for — before you make that click. Well this is definitely useful, however the hovering feature only works when I move the mouse towards the end of the the listing which is pretty annoying! Moreover, I figured the preview is very small so it doesn’t really tell you much about the website anyway. A small snapshot of the page would be nice, something like what snap.com is already doing. But again this is a feature that not everyone may like, so keeping all these additional things ‘optional’ may be a good idea.

6. Instant Answers: Bing also provides near instant answers to many queries. For example, entering a flight number will return the most recent flight information and display it prominently in the results, saving the hassle of going to a separate page. Other Instant Answers on Bing include stock prices, local weather, sports scores and more. This feature is also not new as both Google & Yahoo have been doing it for a long time. But its really good to see that Bing has really caught up with most of the useful features of both Google & Yahoo.

7. Related Searches: Bing does show some good related searches when you search for a term. This definitely helps to refine a search query and also come across other useful and related terms.

bing-related-search

8. Image Search: Bing has a pretty awesome image search. Occassionally images do appear within the web search results for certain queries, just like Google’s Universal Search. However their dedicated Image search page is also pretty neat and has a very handy left hand sidebar to refine the search by size, layout, colour, size etc.

bing-image-search

9. Travel Search- Bing has a very cool search interface for travel related searches. You can just enter your travel particulars and bing automatically searches different travel portals and shows you hotel prices, air fares and so on.

10. Shopping Search – Bing also have a dedicated interface to deal with the shopping queries. It sort of promotes the previous Microsoft Cashback program. Try doing a search for any product and you will get a pretty good idea of what it does. (E.g. Nokia E63)

Bing Product Tour Video

Bing vs. Google – Search Result Quality

To me, the quality of the search result is the most important factor that leads me to decide which provider stays as my default search in my browser (currently its Google in all my 3 browsers – Google’s Chrome, Firefox & IE 8).

Bing provides a nice way to do a head on head comparison of Bing & Google, they named the feature – Bing Search Challenge. Basically it opens both Bing & Google on the same browser window and let you perform a search on both on them and match the results. [This isn’t new as well, it was done by Hakia way back..]

But its a good way to convince people who are thinking about making a switch that the engine that they are about to switch to is indeed better and provides better results. I have tried a number of queries in both Bing & Google to perform a side by side comparison. In most cases I noticed that Bing did pretty well compared to the old Live.com results. However still in most cases I find that Google can interpret the natural language way better than bing. However for many queries Bing actually performed better than Google! I’ll try to do a separate post with all my test search phrases and the result comparison. But for now you can take a look at Greg’s post in Search Engine Land.

There are lots of other things about bing that I would still like to mention, but due to a bit of time constraint I’m ending this post here. If you want to learn further on bing you can head over to their PressPass page, which contains a lot of information on each of the bing’s features.

Also if you are a twitter user you can follow the bing team on Twitter – (@bing).

So have you tried bing.com? Whats your feedback? Please share in comments!

Update: Are you a Webmaster? Try Bing Webmaster Center today!

What others are saying about Bing?

Bing Off to a Good Start: Takes #2 Spot Ahead of Yahoo – Read Write Web

Microsoft’s Bing Vs Google: Head To Head Search Results – Search Engine Land

Microsoft Bing: Much better than expected – Cnet News

Microsoft’s Bing Search Arrives Early, and Impresses – FastCompany

Bing off to solid start, but not that good – CNet News

Bing Opens Up. Is It Good? It’s Too Early To Tell – Mashable

Bing Goes Live—Here’s What You Can Do With It – Lifehacker

Bing.com; Is it Worth Switching from Google? – Marketing Pilgrim

Bing: How Useful Is Microsoft’s New Search Offering? – CNN

Microsoft vs Google: Bing It On – Sitepoint

Live Search : The sound of found: Bing! – MSDN Blog


Kumo: Microsoft’s Test Search Engine

Microsoft employees have began testing Microsoft’s new search engine – Kumo, which may or may not replace their official brand – Live.com.

Microsoft writes:

There has also been a fair amount of speculation around the use of the Kumo brand and URL, and whether this means that we are rebranding Live Search. We’re using the Kumo brand and URL for this test experience to make sure employees understand they’re in a test experience. We believe this will encourage more active feedback. As for rebranding, it’s something we’re still considering.

Mike Nichols who is is General Manager of Live Search also writes that Kumo is solely a prototype of their ‘new search engine’ that they have decided to open to their employees only. This sort of internal testing is pretty common at Microsoft before they release a product publicly.

microsoft-kumo-search-engine

As you can see in the screen shot above, the new engine does look a bit different from Live search and has a few new features like – Images withing results, Related search queries in the sidebar, history. grouping of search results etc.

I can’t wait to test out this engine myself! Hopefully Live search will open Kumo for public beta testing soon.


News Alert Service from Live Search

Microsoft’s Live Search Blog recently announced that they have started a news alert service which will enable users to get the latest news delivered directly to their email. Currently the delivery options can set only as daily, twice daily or weekly.

This service is indeed very similar to Google Alerts, which allows you to get instant update whenever any news stories that are related to your your search term hits the net. But the likely downside of this new feature of Live Search is they only let you choose top headlines or subject-specific news headlines.

live-news-alerts

To activate Live Search news alert, simply visit news.live.com and sign in with your Live ID, click on the News alerts link, and then click on “Create Alert.”

The thing I hate most about Microsoft is, most of their products are very “US” centric. This News Alert service is also for US users only.


Microsoft Thumbtack – Online Research Tool

Microsoft’s Live Labs has recently released a brand new online bookmarking service called Thumbtack, which allows users to compile web links, media and text snippets and store it online for future reference. Thumbtack also offers collaboration – users can share their thumbtack collections with friends and they will be able to add their own clips to it.

Whatever you collect from the web can be easily sorted using tags called ‘Collections’, which can be published to the web via RSS, embedded in blogs, shared to friends for collaboration, or kept private for your own reference.

TechCrunch points out, that Thumbtack also gives users ability to customize their look and feel by offering a set of ‘gadgets’. Initially the they provide an Address gadget that can identify addresses in clips and find them on a map, a Properties gadget that lets users to assign a price value to any specified item, and lastly a Layout gadget which users can use to organize their thumbtack workspace.

From Microsoft Live Labs Blog:

Thumbtack is an easy way to save links, photos, and anything else you find on the Web in a single place. Compare prices, colors, styles or locations at a glance. Grab the stuff you want from lots of different sites, put it into a Thumbtack collection, then get to it from anywhere you can get online.
Thumbtack uses machine learning and natural language techniques to understand the information you give it—it automatically extracts addresses, for instance, and the Address Gadget will then automatically plot that address on a map. Other gadgets help you compare items in your collection, or arrange them the way that’s easiest for you to see them.

Watch the following video to learn more about Thumbtack –

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-US&#038;playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:6a905d98-0332-4c3f-8b25-75737cd9b675&#038;showPlaylist=true&#038;from=shared" target="_new" title="Thumbtack Introduction">Video: Thumbtack Introduction</a>

My Two Cents

As Adam Ostrow of Mashable points out, Microsoft Thumbtack may be useful for very specific tasks like doing research online, however for bookmarking purpose – I believe the traditional bookmarking & tag based social bookmarking sites works best.

What do you think? Would you use Thumbtack? Share in Comments!


Oxite – Microsoft’s Open Source Blogging Platform

oxite-microsoft-blogging-platform Microsoft have just released an alpha version of its own open source content management system (CMS) platform – Oxite.

What is Oxite?

Oxite is blogging flavored CMS platform that is currently available under the Microsoft Public License. Its target user base is not ‘end users’ but developers who perhaps use Microsoft’s platform to make a custom CMS or a large-scale multi user blog network. So if your small-medium business is looking to build a blog platform or CMS from scratch, your IT team may well consider making Oxite as their base platform.

Features of Oxite

Some of the major features of this new open source CMS are – Gravatars, pingbacks, trackbacks, RSS feeds, commenting, and the MetaWebLog API (which will allow your favorite blogging client to post to your Oxide blog directly).

Downside of Oxite

Oxite is based on ASP.net (Front End) and MS SQL (back end), thus when we are talking about cost of Hosting we are already looking at a major disadvantage. The reason WordPress, Drupal & other CMS are so popular because they are all written in PHP and backed up by mySQL – thus can run on any cheap linux server.

My Two Cents

Well its always great to see any ‘open-source’ product coming out from Microsoft. But Oxite will disappoint a lot of users who doesn’t want the hassle of setting up a windows server and Microsoft SQL Server for running this CMS. But for big companies or start ups who wants to create a multi user blog network, Oxite might just be be an ideal choice.

Channel 9 has a short interview with the developers of Oxite that describes some more of the software’s features and the history of its development.


Dell PCs will come with Microsoft Live Search

Dell LogoMicrosoft has recently signed a major deal with the Pioneer PC Manufacturing company – Dell. According to a source Dell will be shipping new PCs with Microsoft’s Live Search toolbar preinstalled with their operating system.

Even though Microsoft & Dell officials has denied to comment on this deal, ZDnet’s source has confirmed that Microsoft has offered Dell sweet enough terms to entice the PC maker to replace its search-preload deal with Google with a comparable offering from Microsoft.

This is not the first time Microsoft has partner with a PC vendor. According to ZDnet, in March 2007 Microsoft has signed a search-preload deal with Lenovo. Under terms of that agreement, Lenovo agreed to preload Live Search and Windows Live services — delivered via the integrated MSN toolbar — on all new Lenovo consumer laptops.

OEM deals with big companies are just one way Microsoft is looking to grow their search user base. Microsoft is also considering re-branding their Live Search with a more brand-able name – Kumo. (This move by Microsoft was however criticized by a lot of technologists & brand experts).

I am wondering what did Google do to piss Dell off? Because until now Google was the primary & default search for all Dell computers.


Microsoft to Pay $20 Billion for Yahoo Search

Microsoft_yahoo_deal

After a lot of speculation earlier, The UK’s Times Online is reporting that Microsoft is in talks to acquire Yahoo’s online search business for $20 billion and install Jon Miller and Ross Levinsohn to run the company.

The whole thing may sound very reasonable to you, but the price sounds really ridiculous as Yahoo’s whole market cap right now is only about $15 billion.

Times Writes:

The proposal forms the centrepiece of a complex transaction that would see Microsoft support a new management team to take control of Yahoo. But there is no intention of Microsoft tabling another takeover bid for the web giant, after its aborted $47.5 billion offer this summer.
It is thought that Jonathan Miller, ex-chairman and chief executive of AOL, and Ross Levinsohn, a former president of Fox Interactive Media, have been lined up to lead the new management team. Senior directors at Microsoft and Yahoo are understood to have agreed the broad terms of a deal, but there is no guarantee that it will succeed.

Kara Swisher at AllThingsD reports:

A report in the Times of London in which Microsoft would buy Yahoo’s search business in a convoluted $20 billion deal that would include well-known Internet execs Jon Miller and Ross Levinsohn, is–in the words of one key player–”total fiction.”
Actually, that’s Levinsohn speaking, on the record. But that’s also the essential word from all key players regarding the Times’ report.
BoomTown has spoken to top sources at Yahoo (YHOO) and Microsoft (MSFT) too and all scoff at such a deal now taking place or that either side has been in any such discussions of late.

As you can see one of the key player of this mysterious rumor – Ross Levinsohn has called it – ”total fiction.” But how can this be another stupid rumor when Times is reporting the deal in such detail as below:

Under the terms of the proposed transaction, Microsoft would provide a $5 billion facility to the Miller and Levinsohn management team. The duo would raise an additional $5 billion from external investors.
This cash would be used to buy convertible preference shares and warrants which would give it a holding in excess of 30% of Yahoo.
The external investors would also have the right to appoint three of Yahoo’s 11 board directors. The talks with Yahoo involve Microsoft obtaining a 10-year operating agreement to manage the search business. It would also receive a two-year call option to buy the search business for $20 billion. That would leave Yahoo to run its own e-mail, messaging, and content services.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said repeatedly that they are not interested in buying Yahoo, although he has not completely ruled out a search deal of some sort.

But sources at Microsoft has said that they have been waiting for Yahoo to get another CEO in place, after Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang recently announced that he will be stepping down from his position for good.

But some folks at Yahoo has also said recently that it is not currently engaged in any kind of talks with Microsoft, even about a more likely search deal.

So Is this whole thing another rumor? Who Knows….Only time will tell! Share your views in comments!

Visit Techmeme to see all the discussion that are going around this deal.

Update

Michael Arrington of Techcrunch spoiled all the thrill by actually confirming the news with both Microsoft & Yahoo. And guess what…. both the parties completely denied all allegations!

Read What Others Are Saying about This

Another Microsoft Yahoo Deal in the Works? – ReadWriteWeb

A new, elaborate $20 billion deal for Microsoft to buy Yahoo Search? – VentureBeat

Microsoft-Yahoo Deal Back On? – Shoemoney

Report: Microsoft In Talks with Yahoo Again – The Microsoft Blog

Update: Microsoft, Yahoo reportedly in talks – The Microsoft Blog

Reports Of New Microsoft-Yahoo Search Deal Hard To Believe – TechCrunch


Microsoft Advertising Podcast – Matt Van Wagner on PPC Advertising

Microsoft Adcenter Community has just released their Thanksgiving edition of Microsoft Advertising Insights – the official podcast of Microsoft Advertising.

Microsoft Advertising Insights is basically a new show for Online advertisers (The first episode was released on 7th November), where the host Jason Yormark along with some other people from the Microsoft Advertising community team cover all things related to digital advertising, primarily focusing on search marketing. He talks about the current state of the industry, what’s happening behind the scenes with Microsoft Advertising (adCenter in particular), and delivers some useful information that can help you with your search campaigns.

In the latest Thanksgiving edition of Microsoft Advertising Insights, Jason got hold of Matt Van Wagner, President of Findmefaster.com at SMX East. Matt shares a very interesting story of a new advertiser in PPC and how that advertiser was able to grow her small business, discover a new market & ideas by simply being visible in the Search Engine.

Its just a 10 mins+ podcast but has some really useful information for the new advertisers who are thinking of trying out PPC in this holiday season.

In the podcast, Matt also shares some bonus tips for managing small PPC campaigns & also refers to a very interesting Keyword research tool called – Microsoft adCenter Add-in Beta for Excel 2007.

This tool has been there for quite a while and it is very easy to use and can really contribute to your keyword research effort. Its a 100% free tool from Microsoft Advertising and as long as you have Microsoft Excel present in your system, you should be able to run it without any problem.

So Listen to this week’s Microsoft Advertising Podcast, if you are interested to learn more about how following some simple steps has helped a small business to grow its customer base & also expand its target market.

Direct download: http://www.adcentercommunity.com/podcasts/11_25_08.mp3

Or Just head over to Microsoft Advertising: Insights for details.


Microsoft Wants to Rebrand Live Search

Microsoft Planning to Rebrand Live Search to Kumo?This came to me as a shock, as I hear some rumors on the blogosphere that Microsoft is planning to re-brand their search engine to Kumo.

The first thing I asked myself – What does Kumo mean? After a bit of searching I found that Kumo means either “cloud” or “spider” in Japanese. Seems like ZDnet did a pool in early august asking their readers how Microsoft can re-brand their Live Search? And in the polling option the author of the article added “Kumo” as an option and thats how this word came into the picture. Lets see how the pool results were:

OK it looks like 48% of the voters said that they should leave the name Live Search as is. But that didn’t stop Microsoft from acquiring the domain name Kumo.com. (Check out the Domain Whois Information of Kumo.com) –

LiveSide.com has stated that there are some evidence that strongly indicates that the new search brand for Microsoft Live Search will be Kumo.

Can Changing 4 Letters SAVE Microsoft?

I’m not an expert in branding so obviously I can’t make any ‘expert’ comment on whether KUMO is better than Live. But personally I’d say that its a horrible name if they go forward with it. Andy Beal points out that, Kumo has too many different spelling errors just waiting to happen– koomo, cumo, Komo etc.

Moreover why would they want to adapt a Japanese name where their biggest target market should be USA & Europe? If they want to make a specialized search engine to compete with the Japanese ones, then I guess its acceptable to have a localized name for the engine. So for instance typing in Kumo.com can simply bring the visitors to Live Search Japan.

I think the question is whether ‘re-branding’ Live is just enough for Microsoft? Because I certainly don’t think so. If Google changes its name to “CrazyFrog” I’d still go there because I find their search engine useful for my work and research.

Barry pointed out in Search Engine Roundtable that Microsoft can’t even index a site properly. And Its actually true! If you take 5 minutes of your time and actually compare the result of Live.com & Google.com it will be absolutely clear to you that Live is still not ready to rock the search industry. They are just far away from anything but useful. So re-branding the search engine can’t save them or make them popular over night.

After the news got out, Josh Garner made a funny comment in Marketing Pilgrim blog and It really made me laugh. So I’d like to share it with all of you.

He Writes:

I can see the board room conversation:

Exec 1:”OK guys, we need to do something to gain ad traction.”
Exce 2:”The guys in R&D have some great ideas on modifying our search technology, or perhaps some ways to really connect with people. You know, to rid ourselves of that perception that we are just a bunch of suites looking to make money.”

Exec 1:”Hmm…that sounds expensive. Anyone else?”
Exce 3:”We could change our name to something cool or hip.”

Exec 1:”What do you got?”
Exce 3:”How about Kumo?”

Exec 1: “I like it. Move forward.”

Exec 2: “Sigh…”


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