RealTime IT News

Ask Loses CEO to Microsoft

Following Jeeves the butler out the door, Ask.com CEO Steve Berkowitz is headed to Microsoft.

Berkowitz will be in charge of MSN.com, MSNTV and MSN Internet Access programming, as well as advertising sales, business development, and marketing for Live Platforms, MSN and Windows Live, according to Microsoft spokesperson Jim Desler.

Experts call the hiring a coup, despite Ask.com's nearly stagnant market share growth since its acquisition last March.

"I think it's a very strong hire," Desler told internetnews.com. "[Berkowitz] brings a fresh perspective. You can really see a great formidable team being formed here."

Berkowitz is often credited with helping the search engine survive. Most notably, he oversaw the company's shift from natural language search to keyword-based search, the kind used by market heavies Google and Yahoo.

In March 2005 IAC Search & Media acquired Ask, which was then called AskJeeves, for $1.85 billion.

Since then, the company gained slight market share, moving from 1.8 percent to 2.2 percent in March 2006, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

But that minor gain was offset by the over-passing gains made by the company's nearest competitor, My Way Search, which moved from 1.4 percent to 2.8 percent.

IAC spokesperson Patrick Crisp said Berkowitz did not leave because of any problems with the new owners.

"He had good relationships," Crisp told internetnews.com, adding that he just wanted to move on to bigger things.

"By moving to Microsoft, perhaps Steve wants to have broader impact on the Internet beyond search," Crisp said.