Microsoft back pedals on ‘better than Google’ promise

Microsoft has had to dampen down speculation that it intends to roll out a Google-killer search engine in the US and UK within six months.

The trouble started when the European head of Microsoft, Neil Holloway spoke to a group of journalists. He was quoted by Reuters among others as declaring that ‘What we’re saying is that in six months’ time we’ll be more relevant in the US market place than Google.’ This was taken by the assembled journalists as a pre-announcement of a new search engine product that would produce better results than Google.

This led to a storm of speculation among search engine blogs and other commentators that Microsoft had come up with a radical new technology.

Not so apparently. Ken Moss, Microsoft’s General Manager Web Search has written in the MSN Search blog saying that MSN Search was ‘Humble’ (yes really!) and ‘won’t forecast when we might take the lead’.

Neil Holloway, presumably having had a conversation on the subject with Steve Ballmer has felt moved to write in John Battelle’s Search Blog and say that the comments attributed to him do ‘not give an accurate reflection’ of his remarks. In his post he said, ‘I did not say that we would be ‘twice as good as Google’. What I did say is that we are committed to investing in R&D aimed at providing a search service, initially in the US in six months, which performs better than the current industry wide standard’.

In a final piece of humble pie Holloway declared, ‘We respect Google as a competitor. It is an amazing company and should be recognised for its innovation in the search category’.

However, both Holloway and Moss have said that MSN will demonstrate some ‘intriguing improvements to our service’ at ETech next week.

Finally, Holloway need not take it so hard. His comments were not much different from boss Steve Ballmer who said in a speech last year ‘We really are going to win on the Web. It is a job-one priority for our company, this transformation to services and the competition that it brings with Yahoo! and Google and everybody else’.

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