Google vs Microsoft

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Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie doesn't necessarily think Google has all the answers, but he does credit the company for opening Microsoft's eyes.

"Google's success very clearly caused an inflection point within our industry and within Microsoft in terms of understanding advertising as an economic engine," Ozzie said Tuesday, speaking to analysts at a Goldman Sachs investor conference in Las Vegas. "It was a wake-up call within Microsoft."

Despite pouring resources into its MSN and Windows Live efforts, Microsoft has struggled to compete broadly in the Web search space against Google. Ozzie said that the company is still working hard there, but is also putting some of its energy into more vertical types of search, which is industry- or topic-specific search. He pointed to this week's acquisition of Medstory, a California-based company that develops health care search technology.

"Just try it," Ozzie intoned. "Go there and type into the search box what ails you. I think you'll actually be quite surprised--quite pleased with the results."

Ozzie said Medstory's technology is first being added to MSN Health, but that it will ultimately be included within Microsoft's broader Live search engine.

Vertical search pages are just one of the possibilities, Ozzie said, adding that advertisers are happy to look beyond Google if there are simple and effective ways of doing so. "Advertisers, they just want to reach their audiences," he said.

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