Think Microsoft’s Internet incompetence and futility only started in the past few years? Oh, no. Microsoft’s been incompetent online for going on 14 years now.
Not because Microsoft is stupid–it isn’t, obviously. It’s because, at Microsoft, the Internet business will always be second fiddle to the Windows and Office monopolies. (And also because the Internet business is fundamentally different than the PC and corporate software business.)
Now, as Microsoft gets ready to make another run at Yahoo’s search business, the WSJ’s Rob Guth reminds us that Microsoft has already blown great opportunities to rule paid search–not once, but twice.
The reasons these proto-search bets failed are telling. And they also foreshadow the reasons Microsoft’s next search bet is likely doomed to failure as well.
Rob’s article is one of those book-length features the WSJ specialises in, so we won’t bother with an excerpt. It details how, in the late 1990s, Microsoft experimented with–and then shut down–a paid search business called Keywords. And then, in 2002, how Microsoft decided not to buy Overture because it thought it could develop the same technology for less (pssst…it’s not about the technology).