An opinion piece today by Reuters BreakingViews is getting lots of attention for suggesting that Microsoft needs to find a buyer for Bing, turning the search business over to another company and ridding its books of hundreds of millions in red ink every quarter.
It’s an interesting concept, but the fact is that Microsoft is going in the opposite direction, integrating its search brand into other products in a way that makes a spin-off even less likely today than in the past.
The most recent example is the company’s plan to offer Bing-powered voice search as part of its Xbox Live system, allowing people to access content on their consoles using voice commands from the couch. Windows Phone features even deeper Bing integration.
Of course, Microsoft could always work out a licensing deal for continued access to Bing technology from whichever company bought the division. But that’s highly improbable, given the history. Microsoft executives in the past have called the decision to outsource the company’s search technology one of their biggest mistakes, contributing significantly to the hole in which Microsoft finds itself vs. Google.
Bottom line, Mary Jo Foley is correct to lump this one together with shareholders calling for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to step aside. Spinning off Bing is just about as unlikely.