Live Search – Olympics coverage good but shows Microsoft still isn’t a global search engine

There has been several debates raging today about the Olympics coverage from various media outlets thus far, and in particular regarding NBC in the US, who Microsoft have partnered with (see NBC doesn’t feature Bolt, has Silverlight take-up really done that well). While its still to early to judge the success of Silverlight, I’ve been focusing so far on following the progress of Live Search. At the start of the Olympics much was made about the tailoring of Live Search for this global event, and it was some of the comments on our original post that got me thinking about the strategies Microsoft is employing with Search.

Localisation is a topic we’ve mentioned consistently over the past few years and this was a key opportunity for Live Search to step-up and show itself as a global search engine. Alas it didn’t happen. This isn’t just a case of a few missing homepage images though, nearly all of the Olympic Instant Answers (medal tables, athlete profiles, stats on athlete searches from XRank, etc) are entirely US only. Note that some markets do have limited Olympics features, GB has medal tables for instance. For comparisons, Google appears to be running its features across all markets.

Today’s USA homepage image features Michael Phelps, which was up almost immediately after his win last night, showing just how relevant Live Search can be. (Good job Venkat!)

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One other region has featured Olympics imagery so far, and that has been China, with the Bird’s Nest stadium showing throughout the competition. The fact that homepage imagery is showing in another market reinforces that this is not down to technological limitations, but is a business decision.

Who makes the decision to focus on 300million users, when you have another 6.4 billion in markets around the world?

Search, guesstimated value at $1billion for 1% of search queries, is an extremely lucrative market.  If the decision to deploy key features is down to insufficient resources, namely people to do the translations and update the content, then you have to question intent and desire to succeed.

On a side note, Steve Clayton discusses assumptions with regards to product launch and localisation, based on some recent IM stats. Broadband penetration isn’t an issue in this regards, Search is a platform independent, device independent, connection independent, browser independent service. No excuses here I’m afraid.

Incidentally, the Michael Phelps adorned page has a link to the latest Olympics news coverage on Live Search. Here’s the page while I was writing my post. In my mind this shows just how far Live Search still has to go for relevance.

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(Note: I use both Live Search and Google in day to day use.)