Bing: Cure or Placebo for Search Sickness?

In theory, getting users to ditch one Internet search engine for another should be an easy sell. But doing so is likely to cost Microsoft (MSFT) every penny of the roughly $100 million it plans to spend on an advertising campaign that starts Wednesday for its new Bing search engine.

In economist speak, there are virtually no “switching costs” for a consumer that wants to change from one search engine to another, other than the burden of typing Bing.com into a Web browser instead of Google.com (GOOG). That’s nothing compared to the switching costs of a company changing a complex piece of enterprise software, which may require employee retraining, or a consumer who switches to a new operating system, requiring the purchase of new application programs.

In reality, of course, habit and inertia make it very challenging for a company like Microsoft to improve its 8 percent share of the search market against rivals like Google and Yahoo (YHOO). There’s also the problem that most people say they’re happy with their experience on Internet search engines today, though some of their online behavior–for example, the large amount of time they spend on typical searches–suggests otherwise, according to Microsoft’s research.

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