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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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May 28, 2009 9:25 AM

Can Microsoft get a big bang out of Bing?

Posted by Mark Watanabe

As expected, Microsoft took the wraps off its overhauled search engine this morning, introducing a new brand name, Bing.

The Wall Street Journal reported online that Chief Executive Steve Ballmer was demonstrating Bing at the Journal's D: All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, Calif. Here's Microsoft's release on the introduction.

The Journal's report said the search engine, which has been called Live Search, will sport a new look next week when it goes online. In addition, it is being designed to give users "access to a range of categories of search" and that Microsoft is targeting four distinct categories: shopping, local, travel and health.

Whether Bing can cut into Google's overwhelming lead in search will be one of the most closely watched issues in tech.

Bing will attempt to accomplish this by adding more features to Microsoft's search. Among other things, Microsoft is adding Bing Travel to the Bing.com site -- a combination of technology from Farecast and content from MSN Travel designed to help people in making travel plans. Microsoft acquired Seattle-based Farecast, an airfare prediction Web site, in April 2008.

Separately, BusinessWeek has an interesting interview with Qi Lu, president of Microsoft's Online Services Division who came to the company from Yahoo. In it, Lu gives a broad outline of where Microsoft thinks there are opportunities to advance search beyond what Google has accomplished:

"When you see a query box, you type in it. [The assumption is that] it will give you what you want. But [consumers'] expectations have increased. They are using that search box for all kinds of things: to purchase product, to plan a vacation, to research a particular organization, to study a particular concept."

Lu also says he came to Microsoft because the company has the resources to invest in infrastructure and "a world-class R&D team that has top-notch experts in all the critical disciplines."

Oh, yes, one more thing: Fortune magazine columnist Stanley Bing has a few words to say this morning on brands and brand names, including his own.

Update, 4:36 p.m.: The Live Search team (presumably that now becomes the Bing team?), responded to Stanley Bing's call to work out their differences by accepting Bing's (the person's) offer of services. The team's blog said:

After an emergency meeting (three people were invited, all declined), we've decided to take you up on your offer. We're not certain what exactly this would involve. We're not certain it would pay much (nothing, actually) but we look forward to starting a dialogue and hope we can work together soon. Let's do lunch.

Listen up and you can hear the badda bing.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Branding , Digital media , Google , Microsoft , Search , Steve Ballmer , Windows Live |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 26, 2009 9:10 AM

Get ready to hear a lot about Bing, says Ad Age

Posted by Mark Watanabe

It looks like Microsoft's long-awaited revamp of Live Search is about to unfurl.

Last week, word leaked out that the company would be unveiling its updated search engine, code-named Kumo, at The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference, which takes place this week in Carlsbad, Calif. Steve Ballmer is on the roster of speakers.

Today, Advertising Age is reporting that Microsoft is launching the update, to be called Bing, with an $80 million to $100 million advertising campaign. Compare that with what Ad Age says is considered a "sizable budget" for a national consumer product launch, $50 million. JWT, one of the ad industry's major players, is handling the campaign.

One prominent part of the upgrade is expected to be a branding change. Speculation has centered on the code name, Kumo, but last week a leading search analyst, Danny Sullivan, said he thought the new brand would be Bing.

Despite the typical big-budget effort Microsoft appears to be setting up, the company faces a monumental challenge in going after a market leader whose name is virtually a generic term for Internet searching. In the latest monthly reports Google continued to hold a commanding 64.2 percent of the U.S. search market in April. Microsoft's Live Search remained languishing in third at 8.2 percent, behind Yahoo with 20.4 percent.

Whether the campaign can equal or better the impact that Microsoft's ads appear to making in the company's battle with Apple over laptop PC sales will be one of the closely watched issues in tech for a spell.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Branding , Digital media , Google , Microsoft , Search , Windows Live |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 26, 2009 3:28 PM

New Microsoft ad swipes at Apple

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft is rolling out a new Windows commercial today that takes the most direct swipe yet at rival Apple.

The commercial, which feels tuned for these tough economic times, follows a woman on a quest to find a laptop with "speed, comfortable keyboard and a 17-inch screen" for $1,000 or less. "Lauren" walks into an Apple store -- she calls it "the Mac store" -- and then walks out and tells the camera, "For $1,000 they only have one computer available and that's a 13-inch screen." She ends up buying an HP for about $700. Here's the spot, set to air during March Madness:

<br/><a href="http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?vid=0bb6a07c-c829-4562-8375-49e6693810c7" target="_new" title="Laptop Hunters $1000 - Lauren Gets an HP Pavilion">Video: Laptop Hunters $1000 - Lauren Gets an HP Pavilion</a>

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Branding , Windows |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 20, 2009 11:57 AM

Microsoft, Starbucks see brand power slip in survey

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

If you're spending $300 million on a major ad campaign for your biggest product, this is not the line you want to read in Advertising Age: "Your brand power is waning."

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Branding , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 13, 2009 2:41 PM

Microsoft Live Search share drops to 12-month low; Will rebranding it help?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft's U.S. Internet search share dropped to 8.2 percent in February, its lowest point in 12 months, according to data from market researcher comScore. Yahoo was also down month-over-month to 20.6 percent. And Google gained market share, reaching 63.3 percent in February.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is continuing internal testing of a new brand for its search engine. LiveSide.net has a screen-shot of the kumo.com home page.

Comments | Category: Branding , Search |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 13, 2009 10:44 AM

Bach clarifies Microsoft's retail strategy -- it's about building brand, not distribution

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Robbie Bach, head of the Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division, which sells many of its products to consumers through retail partners, said the company's decision to launch its own branded retail stores was more about building brand than volume distribution.

After taking a half-hour of spot-on questions from students gathered at Microsoft for the company's Minority Student Day this morning, Bach sat down with me, Joe Tartakoff of the Seattle P-I and Todd Bishop of TechFlash.

Q: Can you give us your thoughts on moving into retail? You guys have a lot of important partners, especially who resell products from your [Entertainment and Devices Division]...


Bach: "The way you have to put this in context is you have to think of it as just a natural evolution of what's going on in the market and it's a natural evolution of what's going on as we develop our brand.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Branding , Retail |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 12, 2009 3:55 PM

Microsoft opening retail stores

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

After years of rumors, Microsoft today confirmed that it's delving into retail. The company is hiring an executive "to create a better PC and Microsoft retail purchase experience for consumers worldwide through the development and opening of the company's own retail stores," according to this news release.

To lead the effort, Microsoft hired a retail executive with 25 years of experience at Wal-Mart. David Porter, most recently head of worldwide product distribution at DreamWorks Animation, will report to Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner, who rose from checkout clerk to chief executive of Wal-Mart's Sam's Club division. Turner joined Microsoft in September 2005.

[Updates throughout, 5:04 p.m.]

Microsoft has taken tentative steps into retail in recent months. As part of its broad Windows marketing campaign, the company launched "Windows-branded sales environments and store-within-a-store concepts" at Circuit City and Best Buy. It created a team of "Microsoft Gurus," similar to Nordstrom's personal shoppers to help people shop. It also built a "Retail Experience Center" in a Redmond warehouse to study PC buying.

It will be up to Porter to determine the when, where and what of the retail stores. A spokeswoman said via e-mail the company will target "a small number of high profile experience stores in a few major cities around the world."

The purpose of the stores, according to Microsoft's release, "is to create deeper engagement with consumers and continue to learn firsthand about what they want and how they buy."

As far as products, expect the stores to carry Microsoft software and hardware -- including the company's Xbox 360 game consoles. Microsoft is still determining whether the stores will sell PCs and other products from the company's partners.

As bluejava2 pointed out in comments on this post, Microsoft had an earlier retail presence in San Francisco's Metreon mall.

The store was called microsoftSF, according to the spokeswoman. "The space was owned and operated by Sony Retail Entertainment," she added via e-mail. [Update, 5:42 p.m.: Check out this news release from June 1999 that describes the microsoftSF store in greater detail. It carried "everything from software to sweatshirts."]

Of course, people are immediately comparing Microsoft's retail efforts to Apple, which has had immense success with its retail stores. The Apple Stores, like the company as a whole, have a following that borders on the religious. The ifoAppleStore blog covers every detail of Apple's retail outlets, including how the company arranges the table displays.

And today's report on ifoAppleStores underscores just how tough a comparison it will be: "Apple plans to entirely reorganize and refocus space within the stores to emphasize customer education, and software over hardware. ... The front section of the store will promote, 'Why You'll Love a Mac,' catching visitors when they first enter the store. The section will have signage and brochures pointing out the advantages of a Mac over a Windows PC."

Some initial reaction to Microsoft's retail moves:

Mary Jo Foley: "I've been very vocal in complaining about the dwindling number of retail stores where users can evaluate Windows PCs from different vendors, side-by-side. ... I'm doubtful Microsoft is going to be able to pull off anything as sleek and hip as Apple has with its retail stores."

Sam Diaz: Gateway, "[t]he once-strong PC maker, which is now part of Acer, tried desperately to make a retail store work years ago. It added training classes, a service department and even made room on its shelves for other electronics devices that interacted with a PC - such as mp3 players and digital cameras. But nothing paid off. I don't know if Microsoft - which really has no brand cachet for physical products other than Xbox (and maybe Zune, too) - can pull off a retail model any better than Gateway."

microsoft_store_flanders.png

More, 5:32 p.m.: Joe Wilcox reminds us that he has prodded Microsoft to open retail stores for two years running. "There will be fear of channel conflict. But c'mon. CompUSA is gone. Circuit City is going. Who can guess which Microsoft retail partner is next. Microsoft is right to open stores. It's retail partner ranks are shrinking."

Emil Protalinski notes that Fudzilla actually reported this rumor in April 2008. His take: "A store full of software and PCs running them isn't enough to keep me interested. A fun-filled lounge-like environment though, I could see working quite well in Microsoft's favor." He also dug up the image above from The Simpsons.

And while we're watching cartoons, check out this clip from a recent episode of The Simpsons sending up the Apple Stores:


Comments | Category: Apple , Branding , Real estate and facilities , Retail |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 26, 2008 12:15 PM

Bloomberg: Microsoft and LeBron James not renewing contract

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft and the NBA's "chosen one," LeBron James, are dropping a marketing relationship that had the Cleveland Cavaliers star forward hawking Windows Vista and promoting himself on an MSN site, Bloomberg reported.



AP Photo/Bill Kostroun


James throws chalk dust into the air before playing in an NBA basketball game against the New Jersey Nets Tuesday, Nov. 18.


Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Branding , MSN , Personalities |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 26, 2008 10:45 AM

Plaintiffs refine argument in 'Vista Capable' suit, arguing dropped graphics requirement created 'third tier' of Vista

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

In a document unsealed today, plaintiffs challenging Microsoft's marketing practices refined their argument that "Vista Capable"-labeled PCs sold in 2006 and early 2007 allowed an upgrade to an edition of the operating system that "cannot fairly be called Vista".

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Comments | Category: Branding , Vista Capable , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 1, 2008 11:50 AM

Apple's PC guy John Hodgman takes Microsoft quiz on NPR comedy show

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

"Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me" is a Saturday morning ritual in my house. John Hodgman, the comedian, author and perhaps most famously, "PC guy," in Apple's "Get a Mac" commercials, was the special guest on the show this morning, which I heard on local National Public Radio affiliate KUOW.

The "Get a Mac" campaign, including Hodgman's biting portrayal, has significant role in defining the image of the PC and the Windows Vista operating system in popular culture, while also boosting Mac sales in the last two years. So much so that Microsoft earlier this fall launched a $300 million campaign -- including a major series of television ads -- to take back control of the brand and restore dignity to Hodgman's line, 'I'm a PC.'

Hodgman was asked to answer three questions about the history of Microsoft. Here are some excerpts from his 11-minute appearance on "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me." You can also listen to the segment here.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Branding , Miscellaneous , Personalities |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 27, 2008 11:39 AM

PDC: Azure, Microsoft's new favorite color, an odd choice for a "cloud" OS

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LOS ANGELES -- Microsoft exec David Thompson, giving a demo of Microsoft Online, noted that the project heads-up screen he was showing is in "Microsoft's new favorite color: Azure blue."

So what of the name Azure, as in Windows Azure, Microsoft's new cloud computing platform? It seems to have caught the Microsoft chattering classes a bit by surprise. (It was not one of the code names I had heard recently.)

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Comments | Category: Branding , PDC2008 , Windows Azure |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 20, 2008 10:15 AM

Microsoft digital ad shop renames itself Razorfish

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The Seattle digital advertising agency Microsoft acquired as part of its largest acquisition, Avenue A | Razorfish, has renamed itself Razorfish.

Continue reading this post ...


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October 20, 2008 7:19 AM

Apple strikes back at Microsoft 'I'm a PC' campaign

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The ads war between Microsoft and Apple is getting a bit surreal. This weekend, new ads from Apple took aim at Microsoft's "I'm a PC" campaign.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Branding , Windows 7 , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 14, 2008 2:48 PM

How Microsoft counts to 7

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

After Microsoft confirmed yesterday afternoon that the next version of Windows will be called Windows 7, there was much confusion and debate over how this could be the seventh release, version or generation of the Windows operating system. Today, Microsoft is clearing that up. Mostly.

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Comments | Category: Branding , Windows 7 , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 13, 2008 3:11 PM

It's official: Next version of Windows to be named 'Windows 7'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft announced today that the successor to Windows Vista will be called Windows 7. That's what the next operating system has been called during its secretive development process. An executive wrote in a blog post that the company opted to keep the '7' name for simplicity.

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October 9, 2008 12:42 PM

Has Microsoft removed 'No Walls' phrase from Windows site after complaint?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Commenter Marc Sofer points out that the phrase "No Walls" appears to be gone from the main Web page for Microsoft's big Windows ad campaign. Recall that in late September, shortly after Microsoft's new wave of ads featuring the tag line "Windows: Life Without Walls" hit the street, the Israeli cloud-based operating system company G.ho.st raised a stink, saying the Windows campaign stepped on their pending trademark, "No Walls." In addition to the "Life Without Walls" tag line, the Windows campaign Web site featured the "Imagine no Walls" line.

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September 23, 2008 1:08 PM

Microsoft launches largest advertising blitz for Xbox

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft's big advertising push this fall extends beyond its Windows franchise. The company launched "the single largest marketing investment ever made in Xbox history" over the weekend.

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Comments | Category: Advertising , Branding , Games & entertainment , Xbox 360 |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 19, 2008 6:20 PM

Microsoft statement on evidence that Macs were used in 'I'm a PC' commercials

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

At the end of this post, commenter unkanny points out a blemish on the Microsoft ad campaign in the news this week:

"The ad agency goofed when it posted a photo of the ad on the web. Someone checked the metadata. And yep. It was created on a Mac. The next day, the photo's metadata was scrubbed. And the size went from 272k to 852k. Source: www.roughlydrafted.com."

Indeed. Here's coverage from Roughly Drafted and a link to the original Flickr user, Luis DS, who spotted the metadata.

"Apparently, neither Windows PCs nor Expression Studio are up to the task of taking on Apple and destroying its globe enshrouding 'Get a Mac' campaign," wrote Daniel Eran Dilger at Roughly Drafted.

I asked a Microsoft spokesman if Crispin Porter + Bogusky used Macs and Adobe software to create the campaign. The spokesman issued a statement in reply:

"As is common in almost all campaign workflow, agencies and production houses use a wide variety of software and hardware to create, edit and distribute content, including both macs and PCs."

The spokesman pointed out that Apple store clerks use devices running Windows Mobile and that Apple licensed Exchange ActiveSync from Microsoft for the iPhone.

Comments | Category: Adobe , Advertising , Apple , Branding |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 18, 2008 8:23 AM

Next Microsoft ad takes aim at Apple's "I'm a PC" stereotype

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

STEROTYPE30_TTL_sean2.jpg "Hello. I'm a PC. And I've been made into a stereotype," says Sean, right, in the outset of the latest installment in Microsoft's $300 million Windows ad campaign, set to debut tonight in prime time.


(Update, 7:26 p.m.: Watch it here.)

The sixty-second spot -- one of several elements in a campaign that will span print, the Web, television and outdoor -- launches into a series of testimonials by other people, including celebrities and real people, who proclaim, "I'm a PC."

"I'm a PC, and I'm not what you would call hip," says a woman standing in front of a white board. Bill Gates is next. "I'm a PC," says the Microsoft founder, holding a bag (paper) of groceries, "and I wear glasses."

Architect Edouard Francois says he designs green buildings. "Desperate Houswives" star Eva Longoria and husband Tony Parker, guard for the San Antonio Spurs, make an appearance. As does Deepak Chopra, who intones, "I am a PC and I am a human being. Not a human doing. Not a human thinking. A human being."

Update, 9:43 a.m.: The spot closes with the tag line for the campaign: "Windows: Life without Walls." Bill Veghte, senior vice president of Microsoft's online services and Windows business group, said Microsoft felt it had to reclaim the message around its products from Apple and is doing so with the "I'm a PC" ad, which will start in heavy rotation on U.S. television tonight. Shorter versions will appear across the Internet as part of a "very significant" online buy.

"We need to be out telling our story to our customers," Veghte said. "These are Windows customers telling the story of what Windows represents. ...

"Windows is about all sizes and shapes of different PCs and devices and software applications, and so to the extent that Windows is inclusive, that is something we want to make sure people understand. It's not a stereotype. It's an inclusive set of experiences that celebrate and support diversity and individuality and choice."

Starting this afternoon on Windows.com, people will be able to upload their own "I'm a PC" testimonials, which will be incorporated into other parts of the campaign, including a video billboard in Times Square in New York City.

"The whole approach is very dynamic and viral," Veghte said. "... The celebrities we use today will certainly evolve as we go forward."

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld does not appear in this part of the campaign. Eric Hollreiser, a company spokesman, said "that doesn't mean you won't see him in the future."

There was some speculation yesterday that the perplexing Seinfeld ads were pulled because of unfavorable response. Regardless of how they were received, they managed to build tremendous buzz around the campaign. And Microsoft said from the outset that it planned the Seinfeld ads as an introduction -- given that it has not done much mass market consumer advertising since the launch of Windows Vista in early 2007 -- to be followed by more concrete messaging.

(You also won't see Seinfeld at today's Microsoft company meeting, which begins at 11 a.m. at Safeco Field -- and is closed to the public. Microsoft tapped Rainn Wilson of "The Office" to emcee the annual event, which Bill Gates will not attend for the first time in recent memory.)

To hammer home the "Life without Walls" tag line, Microsoft also launched a flurry of print ads featuring a Windows "Manifesto," which Veghte described as a document used internally "quite a bit." (It appeared in a two-page spread in the A section of The Seattle Times.) It carries the heading "Windows VS Walls" -- a not-so-veiled reference to the closed system of Apple, which makes hardware and operating system software.

The manifesto, printed next to a picture of a guy who has just cut a Windows-logo-shaped window through the wall of a house with a sawzall, reads:

"This epic struggle explains why we make what we make and do what we do. The thing that gets us out of bed every day is the prospect of creating pathways above, below, around and through walls. To start a dialogue between hundreds of devices, billions of people and a world of ideas.


To lift up the smallest of us. And catapult the most audacious of us. But, most importantly, to connect all of us to the four corners of our own digital lives and to each other. To go on doing the little stuff, the big stuff, the crazy stuff and that ridiculously necessary stuff. On our own or together.

This is more than software we're talking about. It's an approach to life. An approach dedicated to engineering the absence of anything that might stand in the way ... of life.

Today, more than one billion people worldwide have Windows. Which is just another way of saying we have each other."

Other print ads will highlight Windows across a range of outlets, from the PC, to mobile devices to the Web.

Stuart Elliott, advertising writer for The New York Times, has an interesting piece analyzing the success of the Windows campaign so far and the risks and rewards of countering a rival's attacks.

What do you think of this next installment in the campaign?

Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Bill Gates , Branding , Corporate culture |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 4, 2008 11:16 PM

Internal Microsoft memo describes initial Windows ad as 'icebreaker'; new PCs, retail effort to follow

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Bill Veghte, senior vice president of Microsoft's online services and Windows business group, sent an e-mail to Microsoft employees Thursday night, shortly after the first ad in a major new Windows marketing campaign ran on network television. Veghte described the ad, which has perplexed many viewers, as "an icebreaker to reintroduce Microsoft to viewers in a consumer context."

Meanwhile, Microsoft fleshed out other parts of its marketing effort, including "Windows-branded sales environments and store-within-a-store concepts" at Circuit City and Best Buy.

Here's the full text of Veghte's e-mail, "Telling the story of Windows," obtained by The Seattle Times:

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Branding , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 3, 2008 12:02 PM

Seattle ad firm that handled Vista launch being bought by Publicis

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


AP

Dancers scale the wall of a New York building to promote the launch of the long-awaited Vista operating system from Microsoft on Monday, Jan. 29, 2007 in New York. PBJS, the Seattle advertising firm that coordinated the launch events, was acquired by Publicis Groupe. (Update, Friday, 10:09 a.m.: To clarify, the particular stunt depicted here was not done by PBJS. It was Maloney & Fox, a Waggener Edstrom company.)

Paris-based advertising giant Publicis Groupe has acquired a Seattle advertising firm, PBJS, which handled launch events for Windows Vista.

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August 26, 2008 12:30 PM

Microsoft was top online display advertiser in June

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft was pushing its Live Search service, including its cashback program, in June, propelling the company to the top of the list of most active online advertisers, according to comScore.

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Comments | Category: Advertising , Branding , Search |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 30, 2008 3:54 PM

Ballmer foreshadowed new look for Live Search

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Today, Microsoft began rolling out a new look for its Live Search start page. The company is going away from the spartan search box on a mostly empty white page -- the design most-closely associated with Google's world-beating search engine -- in favor of a look that leaves room for it to highlight various features of its search and online services offerings. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said last week that he was no fan of the blank start page.

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Comments | Category: Branding , Search , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 23, 2008 1:58 PM

Google displaces Microsoft as company with best corporate reputation

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Harris Interactive released the results of its 2007 corporate reputation survey. Google took the top spot over Microsoft, which was No. 1 last year, and Johnson & Johnson, which was No. 1 every other year going back to the inception of the survey in 1999.

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