When Will Microsoft Pull the Plug on Bing?

A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 27 2013 2:26 PM

When Will Microsoft Pull the Plug on Bing?

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This ad campaign will always be dumb, regardless.

Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

In light of Google zapping Rap Genius, I've been wondering this week when we'll start seeing more robust calls in the United States for serious antitrust scrutiny of Google. That's become a fairly mainstream idea in Europe already, but in the United States where we love American high-tech companies it's not really on the radar.

But one reason it's not on the radar is that Google isn't really much of a search monopoly at the moment. If it did anything to seriously compromise its usefulness for Web surfers, we could easily hop over to the inferior-but-totally-good-enough Bing from Microsoft. The problem, for both us and for Google, is that it's by no means clear that Bing will be around for all that much longer. Steve Ballmer's run as Microsoft CEO hasn't been great for Microsoft's shareholders, but it's been a boon to the world since his determination to pour money into an Online Services division that competes with Google on several fronts has given Mountain View a dose of competition. But Ballmer's been more-or-less fired, and Microsoft's board is supposed to appoint a new CEO next year.

Will Ballmer's successor share his determination to go head to head with the king of search? If you were given the job, would you? I wouldn't. Online Services has been a huge financial disaster for Microsoft. But if it goes away, then suddenly Google becomes a real monopolist.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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