It’s no secret that in the war of search engines, Google stands head and shoulders above the competition; its doodles have become synonymous with events of cultural importance, its logo as recognisable as McDonald’s eponymous arches.
Indeed, according to a recent US study, the California based company reached an all time high of 67.3% market share last December, easily eclipsing past market leaders such as AOL and Yahoo. But the new kid on the block is fighting back in more ways than one. Microsoft’s Bing, released in 2009 and constructed from the ashes of MSN and Live search engines, today accounts for only 18.2% of all online queries, but that’s a figure that has consistently grown year on year. Not that there is even a whiff of complacency coming from the Seattle giant.
Last Monday at the International Symposium of Computer Technology, Microsoft unveiled its new server suite, ‘Catapult’ a field programmable gate array or FPGA for short. What this boils down to for the less tech savvy amongst us are ultra fast speeds at an affordable price.
Therein lies the essence of Microsoft’s strategy; CPU’s aren’t getting that much faster and with Moore’s Law looking increasingly like Moore’s Folly, an emphasis on low energy chip sets such as the ARM’s used on both Google and Facebook is where the battle lines are currently being drawn. Microsoft, for the first time in what seems like an age, has trumped the competition. The FPGA chips, which can be tweaked on the fly allowing them to be used in ever more specialised areas, has ushered in the dawn of programmable hardware. It has arrived at a time when the consumer is putting increasing pressure on companies to provide seemingly endless cloud storage space to accompany their still-free search engines.
The smart money is still on Google to maintain overwhelming dominance, but a 25% market share from Bing in the next few years is not unthinkable. Still, the real mêlée will be fought on the splash pages of the respective browsers, where performance speeds are measure in the hundredths of a second and profit margins in the tens of billions; Bing may be down, but it’s certainly not yet out for the count.