Microsoft has doubled down on its AI commitment with the news that it is bundling AI capabilities into both its Bing search engine and Edge browser.

On Tuesday Microsoft held a press event where it announced it was “reinventing search with a new AI-powered Microsoft Bing and Edge, your copilot for the web.”

It comes after search rival Google also held an AI-related press conferences on Wednesday, where it is expected to integrate ChatGPT-style features into its search engine.

New Bing offers an interactive chat experience. This query shows someone asking if an IKEA couch will fit in the back of their car.
Image credit Microsoft

AI-powered Bing, Edge

The main focus was on Microsoft’s AI updated Bing search engine, which for years has struggled to escape the shadows cast by Google’s search engine.

Indeed Microsoft’s share of search so far is about an estimated tenth of the market.

“Today, we’re launching an all new, AI-powered Bing search engine and Edge browser, available in preview now at Bing.com, to deliver better search, more complete answers, a new chat experience and the ability to generate content, “wrote Yusuf Mehdi, corporate VP and consumer chief marketing officer in a blog post. “We think of these tools as an AI copilot for the web.”

“AI will fundamentally change every software category, starting with the largest category of all – search,” added CEO Satya Nadella. “Today, we’re launching Bing and Edge powered by AI copilot and chat, to help people get more from search and the web.”

Microsoft’s Mehdi noted that there are 10 billion search queries a day, but Redmond estimates that half of them go unanswered because “people are using search to do things it wasn’t originally designed to do.”

Microsoft says search engines are great for finding a website, but for more complex questions or tasks too often it falls short.

Now Microsoft said it has brought together search, browsing and chat into one unified experience.

This, it says will deliver:

  • Better search. New Bing gives a user an improved version of the familiar search experience, providing more relevant results for simple things like sports scores, stock prices and weather, along with a new sidebar that shows more comprehensive answers.
  • Complete answers. Bing reviews results from across the web to find and summarise the answer a person is looking for. For example, a user can get detailed instructions for how to substitute eggs for another ingredient in a cake they are baking right in that moment, without scrolling through multiple results.
  • A new chat experience. For more complex searches – such as for planning a detailed trip itinerary or researching what TV to buy – the new Bing offers new, interactive chat. The chat experience allows the user to refine their search until they get the complete answer they are looking for by asking for more details, clarity and ideas.
  • A creative spark. There are times when a user need more than an answer – they need inspiration. Redmond says the new Bing can help a user write an email, create a 5-day itinerary for a dream holiday to Hawaii, with links to book travel and accommodations, prep for a job interview or create a quiz for trivia night. The new Bing also cites all its sources, so a user is able to see links to the web content it references.

Meanwhile Microsoft is also touting a new experience with its Edge browser.

Microsoft said it has the browser with new AI capabilities and a new look, and added two new functionalities: Chat and compose.

Microsoft’s updated Edge browser has new AI capabilities, a new look and two new functionalities: chat and compose. You can also ask Edge to help you compose content, such as a LinkedIn post.
Image credit Microsoft

With the Edge Sidebar, a user can ask for a summary of a lengthy financial report to get the key takeaways – and then use the chat function to ask for a comparison to a competing company’s financials and automatically put it in a table.

The user can also ask Edge to help them compose content, such as a LinkedIn post, by giving it a few prompts to get them started.

After that, the user can ask it to help them update the tone, format and length of the post. Edge can understand the web page the user is currently on and adapts accordingly, Redmond claims.

New experience

Microsoft noted that the new new Bing experience is a culmination of four technical breakthroughs:

  • Next-generation OpenAI model. New Bing is running on a new, next-generation OpenAI large language model that Microsoft claims is more powerful than ChatGPT and customised specifically for search.
  • Microsoft Prometheus model. Redmond said it developed a proprietary way of working with the OpenAI model that allows it to best leverage its power. It calls this collection of capabilities and techniques the Prometheus model. This combination gives a user more relevant, timely and targeted results, with improved safety.
  • Applying AI to core search algorithm. Microsoft also also applied the AI model to its core Bing search ranking engine, which led to the largest jump in relevance in two decades, it says. With this AI model, Microsoft says even basic search queries are more accurate and more relevant.
  • New user experience. Redmond says it is reimagining how a user interact with search, browser and chat by pulling them into a unified experience. This will unlock a completely new way to interact with the web.

The new Bing is available today in a limited preview on desktop, and everyone can visit Bing.com to try sample queries and sign up for the waitlist.

It will be available for mobile devices in coming weeks.

Microsoft has backed ChatGPT creator OpenAI since 2019 and sparked the current market interest after announcing last week it was investing billions into the company.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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