Despite Google’s lead in search-engine market share, Microsoft hopes that a new and improved search experience will translate into a greater piece of the online search pie
Microsoft announced the release of its new search engine, Bing, at the seventh annual D: All Things Digital conference in California on 28 May.
[ Update: Since then, the search engine has been launched, and we have a review. ]
Early views of the search engine, when it was still code-named Kumo, suggested that it would organise search results by grouping them into subcategories. Anyone doing a search of “Audi S8,” therefore, would receive subcategories such as “Audi S8 Parts,” “Used Audi S8,” and “Top images for Audi S8.” The implication was that this would lead to faster searches than the traditional search-engine pages of ungrouped hyperlinks.
Microsoft is aiming higher than results organisation, however, highlighting Bing’s “intuitive tools to help customers make better decisions,” according to the company, and “focusing initially on four key vertical areas: making a purchase decision, planning a trip, researching a health condition or finding a local business.”
In that spirit, Bing results drill down into what the search engine views as particularly actionably relevant for a particular search query. It also displays results on the search page, negating the need to click on a link to view particularly relevant information. For example, entering a particular product would yield results that subcategorise by price and brand; typing in “airfare to France” could produce ticket prices. Related search terms are displayed on the left side of the screen.
With regard to video, Bing will display thumbnails of results in the search pane, to be played when clicked upon, mirroring some dynamic search additions by Yahoo.
Even as the company touted the new search engine, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer attempted to downplay search’s role in the company’s overall strategy, stating during an interview at the seventh annual D: All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, Calif., that “I spend more of my time on talent, than trying to be ‘the search guy.'”
With regard to the new search engine’s name, Ballmer said, according to a transcript from the event: “I’m not the creative guy, here … . short mattered … people like to ‘verb up’ … works globally, doesn’t have negative connotations.”
“It’s not a substitute for innovation, but we need to build brand equity in addition to technology equity,” Ballmer added, according to the transcript.
The company plans to deploy Bing, which will be located at Bing.com, worldwide on 3 June.
Some analysts feel that the release of Bing could help improve Microsoft’s search-related financials.
“Today most advertisers buy search ads just with Google and Yahoo because Microsoft has a measly… share of searches – not enough reach to make buying search ads with MS worth the trouble,” Shar VanBoskirk, an analyst with Forrester, wrote in a 28 May posting on the Forrester Blog for Interactive Marketing Professionals. “Forrester expects Bing to change that.”
Microsoft has been aggressively battling to wrest the lead in U.S. core search away from Google, which claimed 64.2 percent of the market in April 2009, according to a ComScore report. That same report had Yahoo claiming 20.4 percent market-share, followed by Microsoft with 8.2 percent.
Microsoft attempted a $47.5 billion (£30bn) hostile buyout of Yahoo in 2008, but was denied by Yahoo’s then-CEO Jerry Yang. However, reports have suggested Microsoft resumed talks for some sort of partnership with current Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, who said in an interview at the D: All Things Digital conference that she would consider selling Microsoft her company’s search apparatus for “boatloads” of money.