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Microsoft Is Using Bing as a Trojan Horse to Rival Google

Stocks in this article: MSFTYHOOAAPLGOOGGOOGLSNE

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When Sony  (SNE) released The Amazing Spider-Man back in 2012, fans accepted radioactive spider super-venom and even that good-looking Andrew Garfield could be cast as an ugly duckling loner.

But there was one thing audiences couldn't accept -- A Peter Parker who uses Bing as his preferred search engine. The throwaway product placement of the poor man's Google (GOOGL) jarred audiences so much it quickly became a meme.

Since its rebranding in the late 2000s, Microsoft-owned (MSFT) Bing has struggled to extricate itself from Google's shadow. Perhaps no one said it better than comedian Stephen Colbert who once joked on The Colbert Report, "Bing is a great website for doing Internet searches. I know that, because I Googled it."

Read More: The Microsofting of Google

Bing Gets a Growth Spurt, But Could It Ever Catch Google?

Microsoft Gets a Boost From the Cloud

Perhaps the joke is on us. According to Microsoft's earnings report released earlier in the week, the search engine boasts a 19.2% U.S. market share. It seems hard to believe that Google only commands a 67.6% share of the total market. It's not small by any means but given Google's ubiquity, it's not nearly as high as one would think, since Google has become an accepted verb.

With these figures in mind, perhaps Bing has more of a chance to close the gap with Google than once thought. The search market is lucrative, with Interactive Advertising Bureau noting search advertising revenue (sponsored results which feature when a user makes a search) climbed to $18.4 billion in 2013, up 9% from the prior year. 

Unfortunately Microsoft does not break out its Bing revenue separately (and a Microsoft spokesperson referred us back to the earnings release when asked) so exactly how much Bing rakes in is anyone's guess, but the company did note Bing managed a 40% ad revenue increase in its recent fourth quarter ended June. CEO Satya Nadella, one-time leader of the division, also noted Bing would reach breakeven within two years.

Market share aside, in terms of product, the two are equals, BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis told TheStreet.

"Search is essentially a duopoly now between Google and Microsoft in terms of the core engines," said Gillis in a phone interview. "[Bing is] trying to have a more robust marketplace and to close the monetization gap with Google."

Judging by Bing's recent increase in advertising revenue, the company is on its way to doing just that. "Search spend is very result-driven so if you have an effective algorithm and effectively target the right ad to the right person, that converts it to a sale, resulting in click prices going up," Gillis added.

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