Report: Microsoft U.S. Search Share Hits 12-month Low

Microsoft's share of Internet searches in the U.S. fell to a 12-month low according to Comscore's report of Internet search queries for February.

The information, which was released to Comscore clients but won't be available to the general public until the close of markets Friday, shows Microsoft with 8.2 percent of all U.S. search queries in February, down slightly from January share of 8.5 percent and its lowest share percentage in 12 months, according to the research firm.

Results viewed by the IDG News Service and confirmed by Comscore show Google remaining strong with 63.3 percent of all U.S. search queries in February, up 41.6 percent year over year for the month.

Yahoo also is holding its own in second place with 21 percent share of queries in February, a percentage that has only fluctuated a few points up and down since September 2008. Yahoo's year-over-year growth for February was 26 percent.

Ask.com improved its query share slightly for February, according to Comscore. Its share was 4.1 percent, up slightly from January's share of 3.9 percent. AOL, which on Thursday said it lured Tim Armstrong from his job as president of Americas at Google to serve as its new chairman and CEO, had near record-low search percentage for February, with only 3.9 percent of U.S. search queries.

Overall, search queries in the U.S. grew by 32.6 percent year over year in February, according to Comscore.

Speaking to the financial community on a conference call last month, Steve Ballmer said he was not the most worried about Google in the U.S. as far as Internet search and advertising goes, since it is one of the search company's "weakest markets" versus Europe, where it "is all about Google." However, with Google remaining as strong as ever as the search engine of choice among U.S. Internet users, he may want to reconsider that position.

Ballmer also acknowledged that Microsoft's weak market share against Google "is not going to change quickly," but cited the company's December appointment of former Yahoo search and advertising executive Qi Lu as president of Online Services at Microsoft as just one factor that should help the company grow its share of Internet search and, subsequently, online advertising.

Microsoft also revealed last month after months of rumors that it is testing internally a new search engine called Kumo that eventually will become the next-general of its Live Search product. Microsoft developed Kumo with semantic search technology acquired from San Francisco startup Powerset last June. Powerset developed a technology that attempts to understand the full meanings of phrases people type while searching, returning results based on that understanding.

Ballmer has consistently said Microsoft is still interested in some kind of tie-up with Yahoo to join their online search and advertising strategies, a position Microsoft COO Kevin Turner reiterated in a published report this week. However, with Yahoo's share of search queries holding steady, the vendor -- under the leadership of new CEO Carol Bartz -- may not be as inclined to strike a deal as Microsoft is.

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