Competition in technology sector hots up with launch of Bing

News is coming from the technology sector that an Indonesian teenager has developed a search engine in her bedroom that is predicted to overtake Google within the year.

Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox
Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox

The service is to belaunched in September under the name Wango... or is it Kooga?  Whatever - there's definitely a "g" in it somewhere.

As Rich Sutcliffe wrote last week (Media Week, 2 June, page 20), everyone seems to have woken up to the fact they don't have to sit back and accept that Google will take 85% of the lucrative search market in perpetuity.

The launch of Microsoft's Bing, the relaunch of Ask and, to a lesser extent, Wolfram Alpha all signal that Google's competitors haven't given up the fight.

Google takes a lot of very unfair abuse just because it's big and dominant, but all it has done is to be very good at what it does. It has no structural monopoly - it has earned it.  

But it is entirely dependent on that technical superiority. It has built few emotional associations with consumers that can protect brands through those phases, however brief, when maybe they lose the technical edge to a competitor.

People don't think it can happen to Google; it has become the generic word for search they scream, as they do the hoovering with their Dyson vacuum. Believe me, it can.

The internet is owned by everyone; its low barriers to entry - both for entrepreneurs and consumers - mean anyone can set up shop in cyberspace.

Google has relied on its universal distribution and product superiority to gain the lion's share of the search market. But low barriers to entry can so easily flip over into low barriers to exit.

It's no skin off consumers' noses to start using a newer search brand, as long as it's good and they hear about it. They've made no investment, financial or emotional, that is required to be scrapped.

The challenge for Bing  - after making it technically brilliant - is to let people know about the new choice on offer and to like it. It's no surprise that Microsoft will be spending a fair amount of money on advertising. It has a practically open field.

And lots of people want Microsoft to succeed, not because Google has done anything wrong, but just because marketing people abhor a near-monopoly.

It begs the question how much bigger could Google have been, in absolute size and share, if it had actively advertised itself and the concept of search. It would certainly have made it a harder brand for Bing to take on. 

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