Bing partnerships with Facebook and Twitter will pay off
In 2011, Bing partnered with both Facebook and Twitter, something that Google didn't do. Instead, Google is relying on Google+, which is a great social network, but with a tiny market share compared to Facebook and Twitter. Facebook, for example, has an estimated 800 million users. That partnership helped Bing improve its overall market share in 2011, and will likely yield even bigger results in 2012.
Bing integration with Xbox and Kinect will help
Xbox has been one of Microsoft's biggest and most surprising successes outside operating systems, Office, and the enterprise. In 2011, Microsoft improved integration with both Xbox and the newer Kinect gaming system. This will pay off in 2012 as well. And because the gaming demographic is a young one, if Microsoft can get gamers to use Bing instead of Google, they'll have a highly sought after audience for advertisers.
Bigger reach in mobile will grow market share
Because of the success of Android, which uses Google as the default search engine, and because iOS uses Google for search, Google has dominated mobile search. It will continue to do so in 2012, but Microsoft will make gains. In November, Microsoft released a very good updated Bing app for Android and iOS, and it's better in some ways than Google's mobile search. In addition, expect Windows Phone 7 to finally gain market share in 2012, as the Nokia deal goes into full effect. I don't expect significant market share, but any will be an improvement over the minuscule share Microsoft now has.
I'm not alone in thinking that Microsoft's moves in 2011 will pay off in 2012. Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told Computerworld "I believe Microsoft won the overall rivalry this year in terms of overall growth and strategic moves," citing specifically "improved integration of social media, the Bing iOS app, and Bing for Xbox and Kinect."
Does this mean that Microsoft will overtake Google or even come close in 2012? Not a chance. It think it's unlikely Microsoft will ever catch Google. But consider that Google fears Bing enough that it will pay Mozilla nearly $1 billion over the next three years to remain the default search engine on Firefox. Google wouldn't pay that money if it didn't recognize that Bing was a formidable competitor. 2011 was a good year for Bing; I expect 2012 to be even better.