Rory Cellan-Jones

Free prizes? Not quite

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 3 Oct 08, 12:23 GMT

As Steve Ballmer made clear in our interview this week, Microsoft isn't giving up on search, despite being as he put it David to Google's Goliath.

But is the latest marketing idea for Live Search just a little bit, well, desperate?

Search with us and get free prizes appears to be the idea behind the competition that has just been launched. The top prize is a wireless Xbox 360 controller.

But we've worked out that even if you did 25 searches a day (the maximum permitted in the competition rules) for the 197 days until the promotion ends you still wouldn't amass enough points to win that prize.

Sorry Steve - you're going to have to try a bit harder if you're really going to win the search contest with Google.


  • Comment number 1.

    Is the Xbox360 the booby prize? Clearly I wouldn't give one of these to my worst enemy..

  • Comment number 2.

    Poor microsoft... they have all the money in the world, but no inspiration or talent.

    Makes you laugh really. They just cant seem to do anything right!

  • Comment number 3.

    I think MS will need to do better than that. It's just a bit pointless.

    However, MS do a lot right. To think they don't is a bit naive.

  • Comment number 4.

    If your figures are correct (and i have no reason to doubt that they are) then are microsoft not acting illegally just like all those "free scratchcards" you find in magazines - They are saying you could win this prize but in reality NOBODY will ever win it.

    Okl they are not charging people to use Live search and so enter the comp BUT they will be making money from people who pay to have adverts etc on the results pages.

    This to me just proves that M$ are starting to panic about there market share and will go to any lengths no matter how un-ethical(non existant prizes) in order to shore up their share price.

  • Comment number 5.

    @4: 'then are Microsoft not acting illegally'

    Perhaps. I'm not one to stick up for Microsoft but for all we know there could be a number of tie-in promotions that we don't know about yet that will earn you additional points and thus take you to XBOX 360 heaven.

    HOWEVER, you have to be using IE6 or better (which is Microsoft jargon for IE6, IE7 or IE8) to be able to take advantage of the promotion.

    So this promotion is really rewarding you for doing two things. Use Live Search as your main search engine and 2) use Internet Explorer as your main browser. Sneaky!

  • Comment number 6.

    Oh wow, it is just a XBox 360 controller. No a console. Lovely.

  • Comment number 7.

    Is this controller compatible with my PC, PS3 or Wii?

    Why on earth would I buy a Xbox360, just because I won a wireless controller?

    Microsoft has fallen on desperate times.

    Apache is far better than IIS
    Goole is far better than Live search
    PS3 is far better than Xbox360
    MacOS is far better than Vista.

    In short, the only "jewels" in their crown left, as Office and Visual Studio.

  • Comment number 8.

    The offer runs from Oct 1 - April 15. That's 197 days.

    197 days of searching at 25 searches a day = 4925 searches (=4925 points).

    Plus 500 bonus points for signing up before Dec 31st.

    So the total you can earn is 5425 points, but that requires you to have signed up on Oct 1st, and to never miss a single day.

    The "top prize" (the XBox wireless controller) is 5500 points.

    That being said, the site does say "Stay tuned for additional ways to earn tickets once you join the promotion", so perhaps you can get that elusive controller.

    That said, 25 searches a day would probably take around 10 minutes. That's almost 33 hours of your time. A wireless XBox controller costs $39.99, retail.

    33 hours of your time to earn $40 (approx £23). Not great.

  • Comment number 9.

    @ mgillespie (#7) - yes it's compatible with your PC (and Mac), but the rest of your post I agree with.

  • Comment number 10.


    Please do tell. What are the things MS has got right in the last 5 years?

    Was it stalling on releasing a new browser because they didn't think the Internet was important?

    Was it then releasing a browser that did nothing new and innovate or better than it's main competitors?

    Was it release a new Office product and force people to use a new save standard that isn't backward compatible?

    What about release a new OS that was buggy, slow and not fit for use?

    What about try and but a search giant as they can't do things themselves, even with all their resources!

    Was it to fail in said search giant buy out?

    No really, I'm intrigued!

    Oh, wait, here's another one. Was it to get Steve Ballmer to replace Bill Gates? That must be it, that's so right!

    I hate MS because they could be so much better. They basically make things that are OK, but that's it.

  • Comment number 11.

    I'll just ditto what jacko101 wrote..

    Another one on the list was the "amazing" Zune player. I mean, that really took off didn't it.

    For microsoft to edge back into the "cool" zone, they have to muster up their creative juices and think of something innovative, not just a "half-hearted" copy of someone else's product.

    Office is the only thing that they still have a handle on, but free alternatives, such as openOffice are starting to make ground, much like Firefox.

    Whatever MS do, they need to do it quick, as people are starting to get sick of their products, and non-conformity to standards.

    This post is a good example of what the everyday users think.

  • Comment number 12.

    Is this how desperate Microsoft is getting?

    Anyway, what is the point in anyone using their services anymore?

    With the global credit crunch bringing on the depression Microsoft is right in the firing line for bankruptcy. They have shares everywhere in companies exposed to the knock on effects and nobody is going to go out and buy a copy of Vista from the shelves. A fraction of the companies they provide services too are going to take their new line of products.

    Microsoft are kacking themsleves right now because the banks are going to want their money back and very soon! Think the credit crunch is bad... wait for the aftermath that will last for the next 2-7 years!

  • Comment number 13.

    "Microsoft are kacking themsleves right now because the banks are going to want their money back and very soon!"

    They have plenty of cash, not stocks... but pure cash.

    Whether the bank still has that cash, is another matter.

    Microsoft's main problem is still being relevant in the next 10 years. The Xbox 360, incredible hardware problems aside, has been its biggest success in the last 5 years, but other than that they've lurched from one terrible idea to another.

    The biggest problem personally, being Steve Ballmer. He really doesn't instil any confidence in me.

  • Comment number 14.

    #7 - Your points are opinion, not fact. As a PC fan, I'd disagree with a lot of it.

    And Microsoft, as other comments say, are in danger of forever chasing other innovators instead of innovating themselves. But that isn't the whole story.

    Why not, for example, take the best parts of Firefox and even Chrome into the next development of Explorer. Other browsers have copied elements from IE themselves, after all.

    The same for Windows. Vista isn't the disaster people like to think it is. As Ballmer says in an interview on this site a lot of the complaints are due to the fact people don't like change. Vista is much more resource hungry - and incompatible with some older hardware and software, but in general it DOES work better, look better, and is more secure.

    It's not popular to like Microsoft, but I do. And I consider myself very much computer literate. As for the average user they just want something that works.

  • Comment number 15.

    "Please do tell. What are the things MS has got right in the last 5 years?"

    I think it's more relevant what they did right in the last 20.

    You can moan on about them but they still have more than a 90% share of global operating system market share, are still the corporate system of choice - and by a significant margin - and have a productivity suite that is the de facto standard.

    MS aren't interested in being 'cool' and 'hip', they're interested in dominating the IT landscape and making money. I guess that's why they continue to report record revenues. Sure, they've made a hash of the internet so far but that doesn't obviate the fact that they totally dominate IT.

    Don't like it? Too bad. That's the way it is and the way it's going to be for a long time to come so when you're looking to point out Microsoft's failures - and there are a good number of those - you may also want to consider the reality of the situation.

    I know the truth hurts but what can you do? :)

  • Comment number 16.

    I think the fact that they haven't done much right in the last 5 years points to the future where they are very likely to loose a big portion of what they built up in the last 20 years.

    It is their arrogance that they think that people will always go with them which will cost them in the end.

    They remind me of Basil Fawlty, they just absolutely hate their customers.

    And they keep banging on with these brands which just make me cringe when I hear them, Windows, Live!, msn etc

    Well unfortunately for them I think as soon as a viable alternative comes along a lot of people will be jumping ship at the first chance. I will be doing as soon as ubuntu is user friendly enough.

  • Comment number 17.

    And, unfortunately, that's the point. For the majority of people there isn't anything that compares at the moment.

    I have an Ubuntu box in the house and it's a curio, nothing more. It's fun but it doesn't let me run Office and it doesn't play games plus there are the usual hardware annoyances to contend with. I've also used Macs and if you accept Apple's closed ecosystem they're really, really good. Unfortunately it all comes back again to hardware and software choice.

    When people are designing software it's Windows first and OSX and Linux as an afterthought so the whole software market is geared towards Windows which, of course, means that Microsoft don't really have to try that hard. I guess that's why their approach to product release is so cavalier although, in fairness, they do get it right eventually.

    I wish the situation was different but it isn't. Perhaps in five years time we'll all be OS agnostic and running our apps in browsers, however that sounds the death knell for any desktop OS be it Windows, OSX or Linux - although perhaps Linux will continue as the shell supporting the browser.

  • Comment number 18.

    Although illegal, this is scandallous and immoral. Really, out of the "enlightened" bunch who use such an inferior product, who will read the short print and note that its nigh on impossible to win? 99% of live searches will be from people who use IE and haven't/cant change their homepage so its just there to use; they wont read the small print theyll just see a big WIN FREE XBOX CONTROLLER and go for it.

    In regard to the future of microsoft; they re-invented themselves pre-WINDOWS, and the time will come when theyll need to re-invent themselves post-windows (microsoft developed windows AFTER its ms-dos platform which gave it the market share it enjoys today because all suppliers/programmers bought into the program, and as windows is one of the few MS-DOS running OS's - where is the competition?

    Microsoft at present is, as most companies will be, struggling from a lul in the market demand, and the visionary people within the company; much like yahoo is. However one thing you MUST note is that microsoft has no debt; it never has done (thank you bill gates) so the chances of it going bust, are quite frankly almost silly to even ponder.

    Search seems to be the "in" place to be, but its the exact reason why microsoft is failing at the moment; why can't they understand that if people want to search, they will use google. Dont try and beat the best, find a way to do something completely different; thats how google over-came yahoo. Eliminate the reason/need to search, then youll have 100% market share; guaranteed.

  • Comment number 19.

    although not illegal* - i do sincerely apologise.

  • Comment number 20.

    @13 - I would hardly class the 360 as a big success. They have paid stupid money to companies to get average exclusives ($50m to Rockstar for exclusive GTAIV content) AND only a few years into its life cycle the developers are already saying that they are getting close to the limits of what they can do with it. The PS3 has sold more units in less time.
    The most important thing to remember is that despite having been around for about 10 years the Console Dept of M$ have NEVER made a profit! In fact up to 2005 they had made a $4billion loss(wikipedia). That doesnt include the millions it has lost so far on the 360 and the extended warranty fiasco.
    They shelled out crazy money to movie studios to back the now defunct HDDVD format

  • Comment number 21.

    "I have an Ubuntu box in the house and it's a curio, nothing more. It's fun but it doesn't let me run Office "

    - well run OpenOffice you loser, that is included for free in Ubuntu and doesn't require you to pay £80 - £350 unlike the MS product.

    Windows Lame! search is basically useless, the only people using it are those too challenged to change the default settings in a browser forced on them by Automatic Updates to an Operating System they were forced to buy with their PC.

  • Comment number 22.

    All of Microsoft's marketing lately has been, frankly, pathetic.

    To name a few:

    "Mojave Experiment": Tricking people into thinking Vista was a different OS, and then recording their impressed reactions to it, without ever giving them a chance to even use the operating system.

    "I'm a PC": Nothing but a lazy retort to Mac's "I'm a Mac" campaign, which was so clever and successful. Microsoft seem to think that PCs can only run Windows.

    "Bill and Jerry": Really quite narcissistic of Bill Gates to want to be front and centre in Microsoft's adverts. He just looks awkward and out of touch with real people (non-billionaires). Pulled after three episodes.

    "Live Search Cashback": Bribing people to use Microsoft instead of Google, or other price comparison websites.

    And now this, "SearchPerks!": Yet another bribe. Even more desperate than Live Search Cashback. Poorly designed, too, as the author of this blog points out, by making the top prize unattainable.

    All are pathetic, just like the products and services they are marketing. Only a company with as dominant a position as Microsoft could market that poorly and get away with it.

    PS: For more information on any of the campaigns I've mentioned, I suggest using Google.

  • Comment number 23.

    @13 Xbox has been a monumental flop. It's premature launch has plagued it with reliabiltiy problems, which still exist after 3 years. Microsoft have poured an estimated $9Billion into Xbox ($4billion into original Xbox, $5billion into 360 development, RROD warranties and other losses). They have all but lost their 18month headstart in Europe, where the PS3 and 360 userbase is now equal.

    The recent 360 price cuts (2nd in 6 months) is signs that Microsoft has run out of ideas on how to push 360 anymore.

    How on earth can that be considered a success?

  • Comment number 24.


    Actually I've used open office and whilst it's a reasonable productivity package for the casual user it's neither as stable or as versatile as Office is. Perhaps when you get a job you'll understandwhy open office isn't a serious commercial proposition at the moment.

    The rest of your post is the usual comical nonsense about people being forced to use Windows which it saddens me to see still gets trotted out by the credulous and delusional.

  • Comment number 25.

    Mark_MWFC, the ever-present Micro$oft shill...

    Allow me to let you in to a little secret - the world does not revolve around Micro$oft. We use OpenOffice exclusively in my workplace - a worldwide marine company with clients in the US, Iran, Mexico, Singapore and Sydney to name a few places, and I can assure you OpenOffice IS a serious commercial proposition.

    If you want to work with TRUE standards, you should be using PDF - an ISO accredited, internationally recognised standard:

    Perhaps when you get a real job, working with real people from all different walks of life, you will understand that in order to be one step ahead of your competitors, you need to be flexible, adaptable and ready to embrace new standards. Micro$oft Office isn't any of these things, and your posts are, as usual, full of the usual comical nonsense that you unfortunately seem to think is relevant in the year 2008.

    I can't wait to read your response, I'm amazed PC World allow their salesmen to post on the BBC website during work hours.

  • Comment number 26.

    OpenOffice ?
    Tons of stability problems !
    Alot of people are coming up with products to rival whats been put out there years ago but nothing original has come out of it.

    I think its a smart commercial move. Why do so many people hate the move ?
    If mozilla run out the door with this idea it would be herald as reaching the gates to heaven.

    And the 360 is a console for gamers, not for someone who wants re-runs of the same games every year on a day in and day out basis.
    Its not a casual gamers machine.

  • Comment number 27.

    > The rest of your post is the usual comical nonsense about people being forced to use Windows which it saddens me to see still gets trotted out by the credulous and delusional.

    Unfortunately this is the case, people ARE forced to use Windows as most of the time they're simply not given any other option. Go into any computer store and you'll see rows and rows of PCs running Windows, then MAYBE a few MACs in the back, no sign of Linux or any other operating system. Even if you don't want to get a PC with windows you can't, I recently got a new laptop and had to get it with Vista (although I later removed this myself) as the store didn't sell blank or otherwise installed machines - and I asked specifically. I'm currently sat in a computer lab, one of several in the building and one of many on the campus, surrounded by PCs all running XP - again there are probably thousands of PCs here, I know of only a single room with maybe 50 computers with Linux on dual-boot, and that's a secure access room in the computer science department.

    Saying the average person is not forced to use Windows is naive and very short sighted as unless they go out of their way, which most people will not, they're stuck with it.

    > And the 360 is a console for gamers, not for someone who wants re-runs of the same games every year on a day in and day out basis.

    Not entirely sure what you're referring to there, existing comparisons in this thread were between PS3 and 360, both arguably serious consoles, you seem to be making reference to the WII for no apparent reason.

  • Comment number 28.

    Microsoft Office ?
    Tons of stability problems !

    Microsoft and their infamous 'patch Tuesdays' certainly prove that Office (and Windoze) is STILL a terrible product.

  • Comment number 29.

    There are always better options to Microsoft, and there always has been. Not such a good point for a company apparently dominating the market.

    Some examples:

    Windows = Linux or Mac (Ubuntu is my Distro of choice)
    360 = PS3
    Live Search = Google
    M$ Office = OpenOffice

    The list goes on.

    Its just a shame that businesses havent opened there eyes yet. The most used server in business, as far as im aware, is apache which, also as far as im aware, is based on unix. If they had the correct logic, and thought 'well if my servers are incredibly stable on unix, maybe Linux is just as stable' then M$ would be out.

    But i can dream right....

  • Comment number 30.

    Mark_MWFC; How ironic that you are defending Microsoft and calling other people delusional!

    We are currently evaluating Open Office as an alternative for our 300 users and we are also looking at using Linux as a desktop alternative.

    I have been to a few seminars where big companies are also looking at this strategy because they are fed up with the MS blues.

    And yes, at home I use an Apple. Not because I buy all the Steve Jobs marketing spiel, because I don't. But it is a rock solid OS (yes it has crashed, but it comes back without waiting unlike Windows!) and it is much more intuitive (unlike Windows!). I switched about a year ago after getting bored / fed up with Windows.

    I haven't looked back since and am loving it.

  • Comment number 31.

    Apache isn't based on Unix, it's not a full OS, just a server program which runs on top of an OS - you can have it on Linux or Windows, and probably others too.

  • Comment number 32.


    Mac's "I'm a Mac" campaign, which was so clever and successful.

    Was it? In the UK they used the wrong people for the job - Mitchell and Webb. Mitchells character in Peep Show is far more likeable than Webbs.

    And was it SO clever? I think you're confusing clever with smug.

  • Comment number 33.


    What are you talking about???

    Mitchell - a dork with no social skills, can never keep a woman, constantly worrying, bland, boring, stale.
    Webb - a rulebreaker who gets all the ladies, interesting, unique.

    Quite the accurate depiction of Mac Vs PC if you ask me.

    And if you think that's smug - DEAL WITH IT!

  • Comment number 34.

    Yawn, a Mac Addict that cant see past the hype.
    There's a surprise.

  • Comment number 35.

    #32: Just look at the number of times those ads have been viewed on YouTube (both the US and UK versions). I consider the campaign clever for being able to attract so many eyeballs - including many belonging to people that actually chose to find and watch the ads rather than just chance upon them on TV.

  • Comment number 36.

    5 million views on you tube of a fat kid falling in water.

    Is that clever as it can get so many people to view it too then?

  • Comment number 37.

    @Tengsted, Yawn, a beige boring person who cannot understand there is life outside Windows... there's a surprise.

    To be honest, this whole 'smug' argument is quite funny. On the one side we have people using a system and they are happy, more productive, suffer less downtime and are happy to try and help others to see what they're missing. On the other side, we have people like Tengsted, heads in the sand, unwilling to listen, and call the other group 'smug'.

    I'd call you blinkered.

  • Comment number 38.


    1) You don't know me.
    2) You don't know what OSs I use.
    3) I certainly don't have beige in my wardrobe.

    Think that makes your assessment pure bunkum.

  • Comment number 39.


    I've been reading these blogs for quite a while now, and everytime there is an article about Apple / Mac there is, without fail & bang on cue, twelveightyone bleating on about how Apple is so superior to every other company / product.

    It's getting a bit old.

    I have and use both Apple and Microsoft products, both have their advantages and disadvantages - but to constantly claim Apple are right at the top and Microsoft are right at the bottom is just fanboyism at its worst.

    So please, for the sake of your own image, just pipe down a bit yeh?


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