Keynote Conversation with Steve Berkowitz

Apr 11, 2007 • 9:42 am | comments (3) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Search Engine Strategies 2007 New York
 

The first two rows here are dominated by bloggers. A girl name Sam is on my left, she is a loyal reader of the Search Engine Roundtable. On my right is Tamar, the sidekick, followed by Li Evans. Just behind Li is Kim Krause Berg and husband, Eric. Yes, and Lisa Barone is sitting right behind Tamar, with these pointing sharp objects - what they are for, I don't know.

Steve Berkowitz is ready to get up on the stage, but they wait for the audience to pile in. Now Danny and Steve walk up on the stage, take their seats, with their very manly headset microphones. Danny welcomes everyone and introduces the Senior VP of Microsoft Online. Before he was CEO as Ask.com, and jumped into a larger ship to Microsoft.

Danny: Danny brings up the NY Times interview where he describes the change from a row boat to a cruise ship. How do you handle it Steve? Steve: The first 6 months was walking around and finding his way around the ship. He said this is an amazing place. Tons of technical and marketing talent. They are really trying to focus on search as navigation and then the advertiser. Then he talks about that ecosystem thing that everyone talks about (yada yada). Last you need operational excellence.

Danny: Brings up the unified search platform that will be headed up soon, as a new initiative. I.e. Shasha... Steve: First he praises Shasha... A single delivery platform is important to bring this across.

Danny: How do you deliver the produtcs? Steve: He said that he has product management. It is not one person who has all the ideas. It is bringing all this customer research together and bringing products based on that. It is pretty flexible.

Danny: Windows Live came along, we had MSN. You have Office. How will they all come into place with search? Steve: For Microsoft, they look at Windows Live, how do they extend the Windows presence? You can take your Live ID and take it anywhere. Take your identity and who you are, and bring your history, wherever you go. You will see Windows Live as that extension. For Microsoft it is about getting the products right. They moving their portals into more social, user generated areas, with using one profile. From hotmail to Word, making them more social. It is not a one size fits all solution.

Danny: How does Microsoft do this big win search? Microsoft says you keep saying it is early in the game. Will there be a big pop? Are you happy with let's say being #1? Steve: Search will continue to evolve. They won't be happy with just #2, in a sense. There are different types of search - destination search, convenient search (integrated search in mail, msn, etc.), Steve said he believes it is where you find search. So it is about where you are, when you are searching. It is the ability to integrate search into where you are. Know how your friends searched. In the context of semi-structured data. It is about; let's get the basics right and then innovate. The things they have in labs, will blow people's minds.

Danny: Do you see yourself having to do deals with Lenova, HP, etc.? Steve: Those are the deals of the day today... But in the future, those won't be as important. He said it starts with the operating system, then the OEM and then the ISP. There is real no benefit to owning an OS today, outside of being a good business. Today, Dell has a great deal... The OEM is in the best place. Then the ISP is there. He said, let's earn it with the customer and if someone wants to change the default - then that is their choice. You need to earn it.

Danny: Do you think we will get to the point where you let the person choose the default from the start? Steve: Well, money is money. And people are out there that don't think about it. They just use it. The most important part is the experience they build with Lenova and Alienware is better than other places. It is not just about buying it, you need to do it right.

Danny: There is renewed discussion on Yahoo and Microsoft joining forces.

Out breaks Ms,. Dewey, which is funny. She pull sup a chair between Danny and Steve. Very funny.

He then asks about launching an experimental search engine, Ms. Dewey. And what is the future of Ms. Dewey... More jokes...

Steve: It is more about the UI. Ms. Dewey is about a way to deliver information in different ways.

More jokes from Ms. Dewey, and she leaves... She walks away, "What a bunch of geeks" as a joke.

Danny: I won't let you off the hook. Steve: He cannot comment on Yahoo or other things like that. He can only comment on what he controls today. He explains he is amazed at what they have, but they have not been bold enough to bring these technologies out there. They are not cool enough, he said, yet.

Danny: Will there be more integration between things? Steve: I am not talking about Windows from a tech perspective. They need to build on top of the Microsoft APIs like anyone else. The challenge is that they sometimes forget they need to use the APIs. Whatever benefit they get from the brand of Windows is different from integrating into Windows. They take for granted how things work for them, sometimes - they need to extend the paradigm of windows to the Web.

Danny: What puts you ahead of Google, Yahoo, Ask.com? Steve: It is not about who is ahead. He said they do better at engagement. The way they build out integration of search into the MSN experience, Windows experience, etc. The advantage Microsoft has is reach. There are very few companies that can do it from the data center perspective from the storage perspective. The need to invest in infrastructure and ability to compete on the technology side requires research and you need to think 10 years ahead. Microsoft also has the advantage of experience, plus great resources, plus ad business and diversification.

Danny: When you were at Ask.com, you were searching at Ask.com. When you moved to Microsoft, did you switch to Live.com? Did you require others to switch? Steve: You cant force people to switch. He uses Live.com 90% + of the time, and uses the other engines mostly for comparison purposes. He was not a messenger user before, so now he uses it. They are more than search... It is more about integrated the search experience into all of those things.

Danny: You tried to get people to take notice to Live.com. Search and Win strategy? Does that work? Steve: To be in search, you have to have the basic for everyone. You then need to segment. There are lot of people who use coupons, people who like to win, lots of new UIs, etc. Making search more graphical versus text based. There will be so much revolution around the UI.

Danny: Favorite features of the product: Steve: He downloaded the local app on his phone. He got live traffic as he was driving up here last night. He found a restaurant... It is that type of stuff that they do, but don't do a good job marketing of.

Q &A Now:

Contextual ads? Basics first Steve said.

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Comments:

Search Engines WEb

04/11/2007 02:55 pm

That was really a high quality interview The Q&A was just as good The only flaw was only taking 2 questions,there should have been at least 10 minutes of Q&A

Lisa Barone

04/11/2007 04:01 pm

To be fair, I only brought out the sharp objects AFTER you and Tamar began mocking me. I feel as though that should be mentioned somewhere.

Barry Schwartz

04/11/2007 04:30 pm

Fair enough Lisa. Nice to see you btw!

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