Today Microsoft announced a number of new and compelling features for Bing and likely will sit back and wonder why users don't flock to it, much as Apple used to wonder why Windows users didn't flock to the MacOS. People don't use Google because Google has better or more features; they use it because it has become habit and people are content with this habit.
We simply don't like to move, and the only way that seems to work in politics, services or products -- technology or otherwise -- is to make us unhappy with where we are. New features don't do that.
Habits Are Hard to Break
One of the first things any company selling a product should learn is that people are creatures of habit and it takes a lot to break that habit. You'd think, for instance, that no one would ever buy another Toyota, but that company is still selling lots of cars. Hyundai, on the other hand, has had better cars than Toyota, from the standpoint of quality and price, for some time. Yet most Toyota buyers remain loyal.
Think about this for a moment: Hyundai, Korea's top car maker, is well marketed, it offers a warranty years longer than Toyota's, a price (for a comparable car) that is substantially less, comparable or better quality, yet most folks still prefer Toyotas. Hyundai has shifted, much like Apple did with the Mac vs. PC campaign, to changing perceptions. That, rather than features, is what moves buyers. Its videos, including this one on acceleration, try to get people not just to look at the Hyundai differently, but at the brand they drive now.
The problem for Microsoft isn't a feature problem, it is a perception problem that Google search is good enough and it is trusted. To gain share, Microsoft must find a way to get people to distrust Google or to think of its product as inadequate.
Learning from Apple and Politics
Apple had the same problem with Windows. Windows Vista came out and it was kind of a dog. Though people and companies were avoiding it, they weren't switching to Apple in great numbers. So Apple rolled the Mac vs. PC campaign to get people to look at Windows differently. (While writing this I ran into the best Mac vs. PC video I've ever seen.) These spots aren't focusing on Apple's features, but on Windows' shortcomings. They are designed to get you to look differently, not at Apple, but at Microsoft. The PC character actually disparages Bill Gates and through him, Microsoft.
In politics, challengers have the same problem with incumbents. It doesn't really matter if you might be more qualified, the guy in office is generally better known and trusted. This is why successful challenges come either after a scandal that damages trust in the incumbent or in a campaign that successfully does the same thing.
The lesson here is that reality doesn't really matter. Only perceptions matter. And as long as folks are happy with the status quo, they won't move. A great book to read that drives this home, and one I recommend a lot, is Farhad Manjoo's "True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post Fact Society." It goes into some detail on how people are successfully manipulated through campaigns that focus on perceptions that have nothing to do with reality. Most of the examples are in politics, but there are some incredibly compelling stories on technology.
I use and like Bing, but like most of you, I rarely even try another search engine, let alone stay with it long enough for it to become a habit. As long as we are happy where we are, it really doesn't matter how much better something else is, we won't move. This is the lesson most companies don't get. The build-a-better-mousetrap story is a lie. You first have to make them dislike the mousetrap they are using and after that, you don't even need a better product. You just need to get them hooked on your offering. Steve Jobs gets that perceptions rule. Look at the iPad; it is basically a de-featured tablet computer or a big iPod Touch. Yet it is widely considered the most amazing product of the year. That isn't reality, that is all perception. For Bing to win, Microsoft needs to learn how to change perception from someone like Jobs.