December 14- December 21, 2006 Edition

MSN Battles

Google to Win

Book Search War

SEATTLE, WA/12/11/06—Microsoft released its beta version of Live Search Books last week, making tens of thousands of out-of-copyright books available from its library scanning initiative. Titles currently included are from the University of California, University of Toronto and the British Library.

The MSN effort, still in its beta development stage, appears somewhat rudimentary compared to its major competitor Google Book Search. Google, however, has scanned books without copyright permission from publishers and thus has become embroiled in lawsuits with the publishing trade.

Microsoft says it will begin adding copyrighted books to its library next year, but only with permission of publishers. The company says it wants to bring content to users with “appropriate rights and permissions.” Among partners coming on board next year will be Cornell University, the New York Public Library and the American Museum of Veterinary Medicine.

In taking this “authorized approach,” MSN has won strong backing of the Association of American Publishers, which is involved in the legal battles against Google.

“As enormous as Google seems, its position is far from unassailable and their options are surprisingly limited. There is nothing preventing Microsoft from duplicating Google’s online strategy, other than prime mover momentum,” writes John Milan, a contributor to the popular tech weblog, Ready/Write Web. “Even with copious advertising profits and their astounding growth rate, Google makes only a little more than 10% of what Microsoft makes. Which means MSFT can easily outspend GOOG. Enough to slow Google’s current momentum? Probably not. Enough to pounce on Google when advertising profits suffer a downtown? Most definitely yes.”

"For all the apps Google puts out, very few can be considered ‘sticky’ (compelling users to stay), and even fewer can be monetized outside of advertising—it’s too easy to go to Yahoo or MSN for the same free service.”

Microsoft is already encroaching on a number of Google products. Google offers Earth, Microsoft offers Virtual Earth. Google offers AdWords, Microsoft offers AdCenter. Google offers documents and spreadsheets, Microsoft offers Office Live. Google invests heavily in Firefox, Microsoft re-invents Internet Explorer."

Google’s stated goal is to “organize the world’s information,” which often still comes in the form of books. Who will gain the upper hand in that battle remains an important question.