A few random thoughts.

BusinessWeek has an interesting article this week on "Where Is Microsoft Search?" The author observes that Microsoft has stumbled in an effort to provide a better comprehensive mousetrap on the Web, and prevent others from undermining core businesses, as is often cited thee days with companies offering competition to many of our products and services. 

"There's plenty of pressure to make this fix stick. Last May, Microsoft launched adCenter, a technology that takes demographic data (gender, age, Zip Code) of Web surfers who sign up for various MSN and Windows Live services and lays it over their search queries. That lets advertisers tailor ads to specific types of customers and should allow Microsoft to charge more. But the strategy packs a punch only if Microsoft boosts its share of search.

"Microsoft could still do that. It is betting search will move beyond the all-purpose Web site where users plug in a query for any bit of information. That's not a bad idea; many analysts believe the search world will fragment into vertical sites that focus on niches. The eye-popping success of YouTube Inc., now owned by Google, is one example. More than just a place to show off your creations, YouTube has become a place to search for videos. Microsoft announced plans in February to buy Medstory Inc., a health-care search engine for consumers. And on Mar. 14 it said it would buy Tellme Networks Inc. for what one analyst estimated to be more than $1 billion. Tellme should give Microsoft a leg up in the emerging market for voice-activated search over a mobile phone."

Now look at the deal between News Corp. and NBC reported in the NY Times is significant, and requires an alignment of the content owners with distributors and advertisers.

"All the advertising in the video programming will be sold by either the media companies themselves or the new Web venture, and shows and clips will be displayed on a video player that will be embedded in sites like MSN and AOL. For the Internet companies who are distributing the shows, it allows them a new way to tap into the surging popularity of Internet video and vie with YouTube for viewers.

"The impetus for announcing the business now, executives involved said, was the conclusion of deals with AOL, Yahoo, MSN and MySpace. The partners had also spent several months trying to recruit other media companies including Viacom, Walt Disney and CBS to join their start-up."

Perhaps the connection via MSN (and ultimately services like the one offered on Xbox Live) is one way for MS to participate. Just as I blogged earlier this year, ABC's apparent success at providing free ad-supported TV shows via the web was a good entree, balancing a good customer experience balanced with a reasonable business model is as important as meeting the needs of teh viewer, in this case with content that they want to watch (TV shows, movies) in a format that's appealing (reasonable quality streaming video) and at an acceptable price point (free with ads). Perhaps MSN and ultimately Live could be the go-to destination to search for and view video content, providing Microsoft opportunities to apply value-adds that are more than just selling ads: video search, tagging, metadata, social ratings and targeted advertising enhance the video library and ultimately the customer's experience. 

More to think about this weekend.

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