Today Microsoft unveiled its latest attempt at arresting its decline in Internet search with an enhanced Live Search rebranded as Bing:
Microsoft Corp. today unveiled Bing, a new Decision Engine and consumer brand, providing customers with a first step in moving beyond search to help make faster, more informed decisions. Bing is specifically designed to build on the benefits of today’s search engines but begins to move beyond this experience with a new approach to user experience and intuitive tools to help customers make better decisions, focusing initially on four key vertical areas: making a purchase decision, planning a trip, researching a health condition or finding a local business.
The result of this new approach is an important beginning for a new and more powerful kind of search service, which Microsoft is calling a Decision Engine, designed to empower people to gain insight and knowledge from the Web, moving more quickly to important decisions. The new service, located at http://www.Bing.com, will begin to roll out over the coming days and will be fully deployed worldwide on Wednesday, June 3.
The "decision engine" approach seems to be an an attempt to sidestep the Internet search titans of Google and Yahoo by claiming to provide a different service and experience. Don’t expect general decision making assistance however:
Microsoft’s research identified shopping, travel, local business and information, and health-related research as areas in which people wanted more assistance in making key decisions. The current state of Internet search isn’t optimized for these tasks, but the Bing Decision Engine is optimized for these key customer scenarios.
The areas identified are also ones where a lot of ads can be sold too, of course, and Microsoft can also rope in some of their other properties:
Microsoft’s mapping platform, Virtual Earth, will now be branded as Bing Maps for Enterprise. More information can be found here.
Technology from Microsoft’s April 2008 acquisition of Farecast is now a central part of Bing Travel. More information coming soon.
Microsoft’s popular cashback program, now dubbed Bing cashback, with more than 850 merchants and more than 17 million products available, will be fully integrated into the Bing Shopping experience.
While all this lucrative decision making assistance is swell, what will elevate Bing above a mere shopping site will be the way it handles day to day search queries for average Internet users. There have apparently been improvements in that regard under the covers and more visibly there is a search results "table of contents" on a sidebar to help refine queries as well as improved text previews of results via technology from acquisition Powerset. As a sample of one, Search Engine Land’s Greg Sterling says:
My overall assessment is very positive. Kumo, now Bing, has performed well and I’ve been satisfied with the results. There haven’t been any significant deficiencies or missing links (so to speak). While there have been a few occasions where I’ve found Google results to be better, the substantial gap that existed between Google and Live Search is largely gone with Bing.
Still, success will determined by the number of Internet users habitually going to Bing for Internet search. Microsoft apparently plans to spend $80 to $100 million for promotional advertising in order to bring in crowds to kick the tires at least once and then they get to vote with their mice every day.
Robert Andrews at paidContent.org reports an organizational change in Microsoft’s Search Business Group:
Microsoft is restructuring its Search Business Group to add a new group geared toward commercial search. It’s picked Multimap CEO Jeff Kelisky to be GM of this new Commercial Search unit, which covers Live Search cashback, MSN Shopping, local, consumer mapping, Virtual Earth and mobile. It’s part of the big plan to improve the performance of Live as a search and advertising platform. Kelisky will report to Search Business Group GM Brad Goldberg in Redmond but will remain based in London.
Goldberg: “We are increasing our focus on commercial search, including changes to the search leadership team and engineering team and in order to lead this market we need to bring all find, explore and commerce needs together. (Jeff) will direct this team to ensure Microsoft continues to innovate and deliver so that consumers choose us to find local information and services.” Goldberg said Kelisky understood particularly how to navigate search, local services, business search and mobile.
Microsoft Virtual Earth evangelist Chris Pendleton reveals that "Ask.com has migrated off of their mapping platform and onto Microsoft’s Virtual Earth platform." No terms were announced, but Ask.com joins "YellowPages.com, Superpages.com, and WhitePages.com to name a few" who are using Virtual Earth.
Last week Microsoft updated Live Search Maps and Virtual Earth 3D with a variety of new bells and whistles and this week launched a spiffy new Live Search News that inevitably drew comparisons to Google News which it somewhat resembles visually. However, my first thought on seeing them was wondering how they will stack up against Yahoo Maps and Yahoo News when the apparently inevitable acquisition takes place and the resulting “synergy” paring decisions are made.
My guess is that Virtual Earth 3D is safe by lack of comparable Yahoo product and Live Search Maps has a fighting chance of survival, but Live Search News will be shuttered almost immediately. (MSNBC.com’s news over at MSN will undoubtedly survive because of its unique heritage.) Kevin Johnson has told Microsoft’s online troops to stay focused, but it would be hard to believe that they are not looking over their shoulders.