Michael Arrington has an interesting post today on TechCrunch in which he predicts that Microsoft Live Search Cashback will have a material impact on Microsoft's share of the search market. It's worth a read but Microsoft will still have to scale a few mountains before this becomes a smash success.
I suppose Microsoft will get some initial lift from the news, but the PR glow will ebb. Seriously, how many of you really plan to use Microsoft search in hopes of making a buck? At some point, the offering will be judged on its comprehensiveness and that's a comparison Google welcomes. I experienced much the same sense of frustration using the service as did SearchEngineLand's Danny Sullivan. His conclusion: "this is far from ready as the big game changer that Microsoft is hoping it will be."
Some people surely will accept a more limited selection in return for a few dollars in their pockets. Still, you don't find many examples where companies made out by paying customers to use their products. It's been tried. For example, Buy.com once purposely lost money on what it sold through what the company termed a "zero product margin" strategy. The idea was to sell advertising to compensate for any lost revenue. Needless to say, that's not how the company operates any longer--and for good reason. (By the way, Henry Blodget did a back-of-the-envelope analysis and concluded that Microsoft "generates no revenue from cashback." I know Bill Gates is big on philanthropy, but Microsoft shareholders are pursuing a decidedly different agenda.)
If any of this created a tidal wave of interest, Microsoft obviously would try to devise ways to monetize the offer. But first users are going to need to master the unnaturally geeky approach Microsoft adopted in building the "Live" franchise. I'm not bashing the products. Truth be told, I think Microsoft's done a good job with the individual properties. I'm just puzzled by the pastiche of forgettable and confusing URLs it's collected around the Live brand.
Last month, Microsoft tweaked things slightly--again--so that users can now access their Live.com personalized page by signing in with a Windows Live ID. Fine, but it's still a marketing nightmare. When I'm in a hurry, it's just a lot easier remembering Google.com.