Many have questioned the apparent desperation behind Microsoft's Yahoo! bid and its recent resurrection but the howls of derision from Google HQ are going to be hitting new highs today.
In its most extreme measure yet, Microsoft has announced it plans to woo users over to its Live Search engine by paying them. Yep, call it one (very small) step away from bribery but the Redmond giant says it will offer users savings of between two and 30 per cent on products sold by participating retailers listed in its search results. All user savings garnered through these purchases are then tallied up and can be claimed back when they total more than $5. Over 700 partners have signed up to the scheme (which is initially US only) including chains Barnes & Noble, Sears, Overstock.com, Home Depot and J&R Electronics.
Of course, this being Microsoft, there are a number of catches along the way. For a start you need a cashback user account and you have to buy all items using Microsoft's own transaction method (no Paypal or Google Checkout here) with the company stating "We can't guarantee that your purchase will be reported to us correctly if you use an alternative payment method."
Furthermore, the limited number of retailers means - even with cashback - you may not get the best deal in the first place. I took the example of a Pioneer BDC-2202B Blu-ray drive. A search through Microsoft cashback turned up 13 retailers selling the item, Google's own Product Search found 39. In this case the savings of using one service over the other were negligible, but in general I'd be more tempted by the wider selection (or TrustedReviews Shopping *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*)
So how does Microsoft justify this slightly nefarious approach: "We want to earn your loyalty and reward it with cashback savings for your everyday online shopping. We are "The Search That Pays You Back"!"
Hmmmn, given Google has 6x the market share of Live Search I think we'd have rather seen Microsoft invest all these payments in simply improving its service instead.