Andrew Yang, the data-driven candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, delivered a real zinger of a line at Microsoft’s expense during Tuesday night’s debate. But was it fair to Microsoft, and is it true to tech history?
Those questions are still being debated, at least among people nerdy enough to care.
Here’s what Yang said: “There are absolutely excesses in technology and in some cases having them divest parts of their businesses is right move, but we also have to be realistic that competition doesn’t solve all of the the problems. It’s not like any of us wants to use the fourth best navigation app. That would be like cruel and unusual punishment. There’s a reason why no one is using Bing today. Sorry, Microsoft. It’s true.”
Yes, it’s pretty funny, but sorry Mr. Yang, it’s not true, at least not technically.
Of course, lots of people use Microsoft’s search engine. Yes, Bing is a distant second to Google, with 25 percent market share in the United States, vs. more than 60 percent for the search king, according to the latest comScore data. That said, the situation is much different globally, where Bing’s market share is in the low single digits, and Google has more than 90 percent, StatCounter says.
So yes, it is directionally true, you might say.
Yang’s comment, a version of which he also made in an earlier interview with GeekWire, was intended to illustrate that competition alone doesn’t benefit consumers. But by citing a Microsoft service in this context, it also implicitly raises the question of whether the antitrust crackdown on Microsoft in the 1990s and early 2000s was an effective remedy, and that’s where most of the debate is focusing.
I generally agree the case hamstrung Microsoft but in terms of search, Google was already very successful while Msft people still couldn’t convince Gates and Ballmer that the market was worth getting in to https://t.co/dKxrNJ7Bph
— Dina Bass (@dinabass) October 16, 2019
For the record, Yang isn’t the only candidate beating up on Bing. Sen. Elizabeth Warren had this to say in her March post calling for the breakup of big tech companies: “Aren’t we all glad that now we have the option of using Google instead of being stuck with Bing?”
But this may be the more important question to ask: If Microsoft hadn’t been reined in by regulators, would it have been able to continue favoring Internet Explorer in Windows to the extent that it could have extended its monopoly from the operating system to the browser and ultimately to search?
If so, what would Bing’s market share be today? And more importantly, what would Google’s market share be?
Let the debate continue, my fellow nerds.
And by the way, if it’s any solace for Microsoft, Yang is a fan of PowerPoint.