I met first with David Cole, who runs MSN and has a long history at the company, in particular with Windows and web technology. Much of what we discussed I need to save for my column, but suffice to say we covered a broad range of topics, including Longhorn integration (yes, MSN and search are being built with an eye toward that eventuality), the Web OS meme (while not dismissive of the idea, Cole thought it was just one of many approaches to solving computing and information service problems), and of course, competition with Google and the rest of the field. Cole began by outlining how MSN has shifted to its current strategy, based on building scaled software services that break into two major buckets: communications services (MSN Messenger, Hotmail, etc) and information services (search, content, etc.). Yusuf Mehdi, who I met with next, runs information services, and we had a pretty detailed chat about the present and future of search. That conversation was for the book alone, due to timing issues. I can report, however, that Yusuf was pretty charged up about what they are building.
So why did I leave thinking that MSFT’s late start in search could be an advantage? Well, think about it. The company has massive resources, and the folks in charge are pretty smart. So they get to tackle the search problem with no legacy issues and no presumptions with regard to approach. There are any number of hurdles in search – starting with how to scale your infrastructure and moving into how to integrate results with personalized data – and many of these might best be tackled by starting fresh. Plus, on the talent side, MSFT is really the only viable player that can offer engineers unlimited resources and the chance to start from scratch. I know, the Valley mill says MSFT is having a hell of a time hiring, but when I asked that question up in Redmond, I got quite the opposite answer.Read More