Written by Emre Sokullu and edited by Richard MacManus
Windows Vista is finally out and along with that Microsoft seems to have kick-started its Vista-Live joint initiative. This initiative aims to push Microsoft's new web properties in tandem with their dominant Windows operating system - and so become a leader in the web industry as well. Basically this means that Microsoft makes its Windows Live web properties the default in Windows Vista PCs, where possible - for example Live Search is the default search engine in IE7 on new Vista machines.
But the question is, will this strategy be enough for Microsoft to beat Google and Yahoo in the web race? Or will the average Joe and Jane User, with their new Vista PC, make the extra effort to change their default search engine back to Google again? In this article, we will analyze the early results of Microsoft's Vista-Live strategy, after the official releases of IE7 and Windows Vista this year. Our data source is Alexa, which is known to be not overly reliable - but it is quite adequate when making comparisons between leading sites like Google and Microsoft.
Before starting with the graphs, let's remind you of the official release dates:
- IE7 was released and offered to the public on November 8, 2006
- Windows Vista for Businesses was made available on November 30, 2006
- Windows Vista for Consumers was made available on January 30, 2007
Keeping in mind these dates, let's take a look at the following graphs. The vertical red lines roughly show Windows Vista's release date.
Measuring Vista's impact on Microsoft web properties
The graphs above indicate a clear gain for Microsoft's Live and MSN. In both of the graphs, after the red line indicating Vista's release, traffic sharply rises - shown by the green tangents. And interestingly, both tangents have the same slope: Live's slope is 0.79, MSN's is 0.76. This hints that the growth in both Live and MSN are not by chance.
Measuring Vista's impact on Google web properties
On the other hand, Google indicates a reverse trend. According to Alexa, there is a significant fall in Google's traffic after Vista was released. The blue line shows the resistance. Google's slope is a negative 0.5.
Measuring Vista's impact on Yahoo web properties
Yahoo seems to be relatively unaffected, although its Alexa chart has been sloping ever so slightly downward for the past year or two.
Discussion: Is Microsoft Pushing Google Down?
The Alexa graphs show a clear win situation for Microsoft's Vista-Live strategy (where Live products are the default on Vista machines). Although it may be too early to judge, history repeats itself and people who migrate to Vista seem happy with what is given as the default - i.e. the default experience is 'good enough'. Looking at this from Google's perspective though, even though Vista uses Live Search as its default in IE, making Google your default search engine is just one click away - and an alert will display when you visit the Google homepage with IE7.
Windows Live is crucial to Microsoft in their battle with Google, as proven by their big Internet marketing campaign for Live - even though they haven't nailed the branding yet. At the same time, Google's underlying technology PageRank is becoming a commodity; Yahoo and Microsoft are getting closer to Google's search quality. Also open source alternatives like Nutch and dmoz are beginning to blossom (similar in a way to Windows vs Linux). In other words, the quality gap is getting negligible between Google search and the competition.
Having said that, Gmail and Google Office are new(ish) tools that can help drive visitors back to Google - so the battle is happening on many fronts.
The reason why Yahoo seems unaffected is obvious. Yahoo is not in direct competition with Microsoft - they could even be considered allies. Yahoo is preferred by consumers for mail, finance and other portal products - and these products have never really been presented as defaults on the PC. Either you visited the sites by yourself or you installed a browser endorsed by Yahoo.
As a final note, Alexa competitor Compete's results are in parallel with ours. According to Compete, these giants all have an increasing trend in page views, but Google's slope is apparently lower than those of MSN and Live.
What do you think - is Microsoft's Vista-Live strategy already beginning to affect Google's dominance in search and other web properties, albeit only with a slight downturn at this point? Or has Google got too much of a lead on the Web for even Microsoft's OS dominance to turn it around and trend Google downwards long-term?