Right on schedule, news of an “imminent” MSFT-YHOO search deal

microsoft-yahoo We haven’t been commenting much on the buzz surrounding Bing’s first month numbers, partly because we’ve grown a little tired of “woohoo a .4% increase” posts, partly because we’ve been stuck in the real world a bit this summer, and partly because we’ve been waiting for the Yahoo! shoe to drop.  That Bing has gotten off to a good start has been well documented around the web, enjoying lots of press, not all of it generated by the $100 million dollar ad campaign.  You can’t visit a tech news site without at least a bit of Bing news, proof the rebrand is having an effect.

But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that all the positive buzz around Bing isn’t going to do any good without a series of moves as bold or bolder than the rebrand itself.  Microsoft knew it needed Yahoo! a year before it made its public offer in February of 2008, and while it may have actually dodged a bullet by not acquiring the whole company, Steve Ballmer and company have never relented on their quest to nail down a search deal with Yahoo! 

So now, first with a one-line mention in a New York Times article on Bing, and in today’s post by Kara Swisher at All Things D, news is filtering out that a Microsoft-Yahoo! search deal might be reached as early as next week.  Microsoft and Bing need to keep the pressure up, in a big way.  Bing has been an unqualified hit, at least in terms of buzz, but that buzz can soon wear off.  Microsoft has been rolling out press releases on “new features” of Bing, but as we know, most if not all of the “new features” of Bing have been around, and incremental new features aren’t going to increase share substantially, anyway.  Just about the only way to gain the kind of share that Microsoft needs to have a fighting chance in the search wars is to buy it from Yahoo!, and everyone knows it.

Still, if (and that’s a big if) the deal takes place, it’s going to shake up not only the search wars, but also Microsoft’s own display advertising strategy, which Yahoo! may end up running if this all plays out as expected.  How MSN and Microsoft Advertising fit in to the new scheme of things may be as interesting to watch as how the search share numbers change with a Bing-Yahoo! partnership, this will be a large and complicated deal, if it comes to pass.  For Microsoft, for Bing, and yes even for Yahoo!, it makes a lot of sense, the timing is right, and the pieces are in place to make it work.  Of course we’ve been led down this path before, only to see deal after rumored deal fizzle out.  Let’s hope this one sees the light of day.