Updated: Some have suggested that Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz doesn’t have a deep attachment to the company’s search business, which may leave it vulnerable. But Yahoo Search Vice President Larry Cornett insisted Wednesday that search was still central to the company, adding the evidence that the new home page the company is expected to launch later this year will feature search more prominently. The list of “top searches,” for example, which currently lies at the bottom of the home page will be moved to the top right (Click on the thumbnail above to see what it’s like). “There is much more of an emphasis on search and discovering what people are searching for. I can’t share any stats yet but I think it’s a very solid improvement,” Cornett said at the RBC Capital Markets Technology, Media & Communications Conference.
Cornett, who also reviewed the company’s ongoing efforts to eliminate the “stranglehold on the 10 blue links” — was asked “what are the guarantees that Carol Bartz and upper management who have been cutting Yahoo to the bone … would keep investing in this? What happens if you guys get fired, laid off, go to Google (NSDQ: GOOG) or whatever else?” Cornett played diplomat and ignored that many of his colleagues have already fled. “I obviously can’t share too many details but search is a critical business for Yahoo … If you look at reductions it has been to reinvest in the things that make the (most) sense for Yahoo.”
And following Bartz’s lead— as well as that of Google CEO Eric Schmidt –Cornett also took a few jabs at Bing. While complimenting Bing for being “fast” and “integrated,” he said that it would be difficult to get people to try out another search service if it was not “radically different.” “I don’t think they’ve achieved that yet,” he said. Cornett said Yahoo had a leg up in introducing its own changes since people are already coming to Yahoo.com to visit its other sites.
Updated: Later in the day, at a Credit Suisse conference, Yahoo SVP Joanne Bradford said that with Bing, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) had chosen to target Google and not Yahoo. Like Google, Bing, she said, was a destination for searchers — with basically a “blank page.” By contrast, she said that Yahoo was offering a “holistic approach” — with a package of offerings. “Search is a component, part of it,” she said. “(But) it’s not going to be a destination.” That, she said, allowed Yahoo to differentiate itself.