Most of you reading this are probably not at Search Engine Strategies. Thus you’re not running the gauntlet of smokers each time you enter and exit the hotel or paying too much for mediocre food in the Hilton restaurant or having truncated conversations with people about interesting subjects in compressed time frames or showing up to parties late only to find you don’t know anyone there . . .
And if you’re not here then you probably didn’t see the Steve Berkowitz/Microsoft discussion with Danny Sullivan this morning. Here are links to coverage (the top four). After scanning all four I determined that they were pretty kind.
I’ve briefly met Steve Berkowitz and he’s a very smart, nice person. But I found most of his comments to be fairly generic this morning. I think there was a missed opportunity for him to say: “We’ve made mistakes . . . ” (insert specific examples) and “we’re going to do . . . ” several things going forward (insert a couple of specific examples). In fairness he did say/imply some things about how MSFT was going to integrate search more broadly across properties and “leverage organic traffic” (e.g., Messenger, MSN, etc.).
But overall he made safe and, consequently, not very interesting statements.
In the middle of the interview Ms. Dewey came bounding onto the stage and surprised the audience and apparently Danny Sullivan, who had just asked Berkowitz about partnerships/acquisitions. People had a mixed reaction to the stunt. Regardless it was jarring because her “energy level” was manic and thus higher than that of the interview.
I think that Berkowitz would’ve scored some points by candidly pointing out some obvious missteps and misses and evincing a “we’re going to try harder” attitude about the future. It’s not good enough to say “we’ve got lots of smart, creative people and lots of assets” at this point. What about Mobile, what about Xbox and social networking on TV?
TV/Xbox, Maps and Mobile are areas in which MSFT can potentially differentiate. It also should bring out some radical (even if totally novel or frivolous) new products. Berkowitz talked about the amazing things the company was doing around new products without many specifics. For me it was a disappointment.
Related: The WSJ (sub req’d) writes about the free directory assistance competition among Goog411, Tellme/MSFT and Jingle (800-Free411). There’s also a quote from Yahoo!’s Marco Boerries implying Yahoo! is either taking a harder look at voice-based mobile search or working on a potential product: “We do believe that voice technology in the mobile space will play a very important role.”