Bill Gates has promised to keep Google "honest" by pushing the Internet rival to "to better" despite coming late to the internet services market with an unfinished offering.
Hosting a summit of some of MSN's largest advertisers, who will no doubt want to know why MSN's traffic is increasing while revenue from ads is falling, Gates conceded Google had done a "great job" on search and advertising while Microsoft had made a number of tactical mistakes, including appointing the "wrong" people.
He spoke as Microsoft launched its adCenter advertising serving engine for MSN and Windows Live, bringing forward the service from its anticipated summer release. Gates promised Microsoft would do a better job of providing more context-based search results than Google, calling current search a "treasure hunt."
"For Microsoft, we always want to be in the lead, making the breakthroughs... we will keep them [Google] honest, in the sense of being able to do better in a number of areas," Gates said during an "interview" with talk show host Donny Deutsch at the company's seventh MSN Strategic Account Summit. Microsoft is trying to encourage advertisers to sign-up to its service here.
Gates appears to be placing much of his faith in new content rather than original technology or challenging business models to drive traffic to MSN and Windows Live. That content will be delivered through MSN Originals.
Gates conscripted US rapper Jay-Z as the music celebrity designate to appear with him at this particular Microsoft event - following in the footsteps of Justin Timberlake and Santana, stars of previous Microsoft launches and events who've had the unenviable job of upstaging the charismatic Microsoft founder.
While Gates was pitching potential advertisers, Google was trying to convince the enterprise crowd that its search tools are right for them. Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager of Google's enterprise business, told Interop in Las Vegas, Nevada, that Google builds search capabilities for the enterprise user by providing a system that - unlike traditional enterprise systems - does not become harder to use over time.
Highlighting Google's OneBox, Girouard said the system collects the most relevant information into a small box at the top of a search results page, making the product easy to use.
"We've been able to innovate without adding complexity to the system," Girouard said.
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