Ballmer berates Google’s primadonna posing

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has accused Google of demanding special treatment in its failed bid to change the default search engine in the new version of Internet Explorer.

Google, Ballmer alleged, ‘wants us to prompt the users to change the defaults. They want to see a list of search providers, with the number one search provider listed first.’

The number one provider being Google.

The US Department of Justice has ruled that Microsoft is quite within its rights to set Windows Live Search as the default engine, just as long as users can change it.

‘If you pick Yahoo!, it will stay on Yahoo!,’ Ballmer emphasised, lest he suggest to anyone that they set the default to the company he loathes almost as much as he hates the iPod.

Since Google reinvented Web searching – with the revolutionary idea that the results should match the query – and then found a lucrative way to cash in by linking advertisements to those results, Microsoft has been enviously and unashamedly open about its plans to muscle in on the market.

Ballmer told a business meeting last week that he thinks it will take five years for Microsoft to catch up with both Google and Yahoo. Certainly the company does not lack the cash or the track record. What Redmond wants it usually gets.

‘We are a little bit late in the game,’ Ballmer said. ‘But at the end of the day it is going to be about the ability to create a mass marketplace for buyers and consumers.’

Which could, or could not, have something to do with favouring a certain search engine in the Web’s overwhelmingly dominant browser.

Not according to Ballmer, who insisted that utilising the huge numbers of IE, MSN, MSN Messenger and Hotmail users is about putting the user in control.

‘We are hard at work on our own core services, with really a philosophy that says we want to let the user be in control,’ he said.

‘In Windows Live the goal is to really allow the user to have a very customised, personalised view, being very creative in the way we’re allowing people to manage RSS feeds, create their own custom portal, use search and search tools, not just the stuff that we write, but we’re creating an ecosystem system around search where third parties can write their own customized views of the Web using our own live search technologies.’

Google’s founders insist that they are too busy concentrating on their own products – such as the four new search tools unveiled last week – to worry about what Microsoft is doing, although Sergey Brin said that Redmond has a history of ‘not playing fair’.

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