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Microsoft Plays a Game of Bing Pong

Microsoftlaunches Bingand enjoys the limelight in its battle against Google. Google announces plans for its own operating system to compete with Windows, grabbing back the limelight in the process. Today, Microsoft gets to grab that limelight back with word that Bing is growing at a pretty fast clip indeed.

The latest market research comes from Hitwise, which shows Bing enjoying some headway against Google as far as Search is concerned. To keep a little perspective, Google still owns 74 percent of the Search market, says Hitwise, with Bing controlling only 5.25 percent. Yahoohas 16.19 percent and Ask.com has 3.15 percent.

But more important than that overall market share might be growth. According to Hitwise, "looking at the weekly percentage of US searches for Bing, the search engine has grown at an average weekly rate of 25 percent for the month of June…Bing grew faster than the three other prominent search engines for the month."

I'm not going to call the results "stunning," or this game over, but they do start to prove the point that search consumers might be as fickle as Microsoft suggested when it was unveiling Bing. That's something I argued with based on my own search habits since I always default to Google or Firefox, and adding another alternative wasn't so compelling to me. Microsoft's Steve Ballmer told after releasing Bing that this would be an evolutionary kind of thing, and that a percentage or two increase in market share would be meaningful, and that over time, Bing would become a player. It wouldn't be happening overnight, he cautioned.

Indeed Microsoft has to be emboldened with the traction this software seems to be enjoying in the market place. The company is spending over $100 million on Bing advertising and it appears to be working. All of this comes ahead of the official Windows 7 release in a few weeks which should spur Bing adoption even further.

Microsoft
Microsoft

And none of this includes Microsoft's own internal plans, code-named Gazelle, for its own browser-based operating system. Google might have claimed all the headlines yesterday (overblown, as I suggested previously since Google's Chrome OS is still more than a year away), but two weeks ago, Microsoft unveiled its own plans for an OS in the cloud that could blunt Google's software even before Google releases it. The race is on to see which company releases first. I'm watching action in Google shares and their big rally in the wake of the Chrome announcement, and I'd suggest a more cautious tone for investors: Just because Google's dabbling in an operating system doesn't automatically mean it will enjoy victory. In other words, don’t underestimate Microsoft. As an investor, you might miss an opportunity.

Bing reviews are good and momentum is solid. Bing's a player, as long as that momentum continues, and with Google facing the possible distraction of trying to get a new operating system out the door as promised, Microsoft might indeed be sitting pretty, since all it can do is go up, as far as search market share is concerned. Nothing like an underdog with the kind of reach and cash Microsoft enjoys. Yikes.

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com

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