Over the past six years, Bing has been fighting not only to stay ahead of its rivals but also to effectively develop its own internal foundations. Now, according to Dave O’Hara of Microsoft's Applications and Services Group, its underlying infrastructure is complete and it may finally be ready to stand on its own two feet.
Crucially, it has been this ongoing investment in infrastructure that has kept Bing running at a loss for so long, requiring big subsidies from Microsoft just to stay afloat. As it can now run and maintain its search engine facilities independently, Microsoft can concentrate on other parts of its product range and any profits Bing starts to accrue can be filtered into growth.
Despite rumors that Microsoft had thought of selling Bing when it reached this stage, O’Hara says that such a move would not make sense. Bing is too closely integrated into a number of Microsoft products – from Windows 8 to the Xbox – and is likely to be important to the Windows 8.1 phone due to be released next year. If a new owner were to take it in a fresh direction, leading to the development of incompatibilities, this could cause major headaches for the software giant and potentially reduce the value of its product range; in fact, as well as hanging on to the search engine, Microsoft plans to embed it in further products and significantly increase its visibility.
If anything is going to shake up the search engine market, this is it. Marketers would be well advised to start tailoring their campaigns – and especially their central websites – to improve Bing rankings instead of automatically focusing on Google and hoping that the rest falls into place. Bing has been keeping pace for a long time without the option to push hard for growth. It has seen its market share slowly increase and it may become profitable if it can reach around 23% market share. When this happens Bing will be able to start reinvesting, potentially giving Google a run for its money.
This raises interesting questions about Yahoo, which, in its partnership with Bing, has seen its own revenues drop just as Bing’s have grown. According to Microsoft, everything is amicable between the two and past disputes have been resolved; however, Yahoo has been notably silent on the matter. It remains to be seen how their relationship will develop once Bing has the stamina to go it alone.