The entrance of Bing to the search engine market has triggered the predictable Google Killer articles, denouncements of all things Microsoft, and a few insights into what it actually does. This is the first in a series of articles on Bing, where we’ll try to sift the wheat from the chaff, so you can get an idea of where Bing stands in the overall scheme of things.
Let’s get started and see what Wired, CNET, PC Magazine has to say about it.
We’ll also look at what Seth Godin sees at the real problem with Bing and go through an interview with Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, who talks about where Bing came from (and where they got the dorky name – even he doesn’t know!) and how Bing differs from Google.
Even though Bing hasn’t been released yet, everyone has an opinion. Here’s what you need to know now.
1. Bing goes live on June 3.
2. Bing stands for But It’s Not Google. This is a joke. Don’t sue me.
3. Bing’s search strategy focuses on 4 categories: shopping, travel, health and local businesses.
4. Bing is designed to keep you on its site; Google sends you off to other sites.
5. $100 million allocated to marketing. Mix of online and offline advertising. Expect to see ads in your national newspaper, TV and even on the side of a truck.
What people are saying about Bing
Wired.com on Bing
“Bing does much more than search for relevant links. It retrieves and processes data, and renders it smartly.
That makes finding a great restaurant or an airline ticket, a snap. But the service is far from perfect.
Beautiful data mash-ups coexist side-by-side with perplexing interface choices that make it hard to find the best features.
Meanwhile, actual search results were inaccurate in some cases, and disappointing overall in the local search category, one of the areas Microsoft hopes to make its biggest splash.”
Not the greatest start. Here’s CNET.
To be honest, I was stunned by CNET’s verdict. CNET’s pearls of wisdom includes this extract:
“Google keeps improving in the area of in-search collation and display as well, but Bing makes Google look complacent, and that’s not good for Google. For the moment, Bing’s on top in this game.”
Remember, Bing isn’t live yet!
CNET think it makes Google look complacent and Bing’s on top in this game.
The fact the Google is about to launch WAVE is overlooked.
The fact the Bing hasn’t made a dime yet is also overlooked. So much for CNET.
Microsoft is based in Seattle, so you can read what you want into this piece.
“Video searches are especially cool on Bing. It returns thumbnail images, just like other search engines. But when you hover over the images, the video starts playing right there, without clicking through.”
A nice feature, I have to admit.
But how’s the copyright issue resolved with content publishers?
Does it include video from rivals like Yahoo and/or Google?
It goes on: “Travel shopping is another highlight. (read that again - travel shopping is a highlight in 2009!)
Other Bing standouts include listings of topics, such as local restaurants, which are displayed with maps and ratings. Buttons on the side can be clicked to tailor the search and set price ranges, again adding the sort of controls common on specialized Web sites.”
I’m not a fan of this magazine but its judgment seems fairly balanced.
It leads by identifying some of the problems Bing tires to resolve and how successful it is in doing this.
“Much of the time users are not really looking for a Web page but for an answer. By providing results that answer users’ questions immediately rather than requiring them to navigate to another page and back if the first one didn’t yield the info they were looking for, Bing brings value and efficiency to Web searches.”
PC Magazine add, “I didn’t run into any cases where Google’s results were more relevant than Bing’s, whether I was looking for a specific site or for general information on a topic.”
While conceding that it’s unlikely that Bing will unseat Google, but it’s a good thing for everyone to have more appealing choices, and some competition, when it comes to Web searching.”
Agreed. Maybe I’ll start reading PC Mag again.
Search Engine Land
SEL puts it case like this: “Bing has to be at least 50 percent better” than Google to start peeling away users loyal to Google. Bing isn’t 50 percent better than Google. However, Bing does offer results that are, across the searches I conducted, highly competitive with Google and in some cases it offers features that are more user-friendly.
Given the strength of Google’s brand and its “ownership” of search Bing may struggle to make market share gains.
But SEL is optimistic and predicts it will ’gain share’.
Those potential gains may come not at Google’s expense but rather from Ask, AOL or even Yahoo.”
It’s true. Maybe against Yahoo which is struggling for direction. Against Google, hardly.
But Steve Wozniak was impressed.
Bing gets an unexpected endorsement from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was impressed.
“That was the most astounding software demo I’ve ever seen,” Wozniak told Tech Ticker after seeing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled Bing at the All Things Digital Conference.
What’s the real problem with Bing?
Seth Godin is always worth reading.
He cuts to the chase and addresses the real problem
“as far as I can tell, (Bing) is trying to be the next Google.
The challenge for Microsoft is that there already is a next Google.
It’s called Google.”
He adds that in times of change, the rule is this:
Don’t try to be the ‘next’.
Instead, try to be the other, the changer, the new.
Even if Microsoft adds a few features and they prove popular, how long precisely will it take Google to improve on these features?
Google saw what Twitter is achieving. The response – Google Wave. Due out in a few months. This will be Twitter on steroids.
Seth hits the nail on the head: The internet works best when you build a network, not when you buy a brand. In fact, I can’t think of one successful online brand that was built with cash.”
What makes Bing different from other search engines?
Shar VanBoskirk on Forrester sees it a little different. She highlights three areas where Bing is different than Google.
1. Bing delivers answers, not Web pages.
Microsoft research shows (Forrester’s research affirms it) that users increasingly rely on search engines to make decision. Hotel reservations, movie listings, gift ideas etc.
Today it’s not enough to have a directory of Web sites. Bing wants to help you make decisions; it’s more than a database–driven web catalog.
2. Bing organizes content/results by searcher (not algorithm) relevance.
Based on its research into which result types have proven most relevant to former searchers, Bing’s interface delivers content users are most likely to value – rather than content that matches an algorithmic formula. How accurate the results Bing delivers will be seen only when it goes live.
3. Bing filters out irrelevant results.
Bing doesn’t give you pages of search results. The focus is on relevance. Nothing wrong with that.
My concern is that the results will favor, or be skewered towards, Microsoft’s business partners rather than the most appropriate site. If this is the case, the validity of the results are called into question.
And it that is the case, will users really switch over from Google?
Otherwise what’s in it for companies who have signed up to be partners?
What Steve Ballmer thinks of Bing and where the name came from?
This leads us to an interview with Steve Ballmer. All Things Digital interviewed Steve Ballmer this week and asked him about Bing, the future of Microsoft as an applications developer, and where he sees Microsoft in the search industry.
Here are the key points.
Referring to poll data, Walt on All Things Digital noted Microsoft’s paltry share of the search market.
“There’s a lot of distance between you and Google,” he says. “Is search the most important thing to you as CEO or are you more concerned with Windows, etc.?”
Ballmer: “Look, we’re obviously where we are in search and we want to do better. We’re hoping to be one of the companies that moves the industry forward. The PC business continues to be big, we’re going through an economic reset, but there’s still vibrance there.”
Why did Microsoft choose the name Bing?
When asked why Microsoft chose the name Bing, Steve Ballmer answered. “We needed a name that says this is all about search. I’m not the creative guy, people like to ‘verb up’…works globally, doesn’t have negative connotations. This is a very important step…it’s not a substitute for innovation, but we need to build brand equity in addition to technology equity.”
Hmmm…. Know you know. Clear as mud, huh!
Bing – How it works
Now, let’s look at how Bing actually works
Bing is designed with a box and button format. It has a screensaver type background. More cluttered than Google, sharper than MSN and Yahoo. Links to some Microsoft web services.
Best Match denotes an official or definitive site, i.e. the site with the most authority. How Microsoft decides who is the authority is another matter and has not been clarified at the time of writing.
This answers questions that rely on facts. such as: who won the last Oscar?
It returns a result for who won an Academy Award.
- A search for UPS returns a customer service number at the top of the page.
- A search for Microsoft customer service number produced no result.
Bing includes software Microsoft acquired when it purchased Powerset, which lets it “understand” pages and perform data-mining activities.
Video searches generate a page with a row of thumbnails. Click on these and they will play automatically in the search pane.
Bing gives a 5-day forecast. Google offers 1 day.
Want to search for a city? Bing will give you info on the weather, events, sports games, and video mentions of the area.
If you search for a digital camera, Bing will open a search shopping page displaying:
- Price comparisons
- User reviews
- Cashback rewards you if you’ve made purchases through the site
The flight search feature, Farecast, searches multiple airlines by price, hops, etc.
It offers real-time flight data and shows prices, rates, and cash back incentives. It also tracks flight pricing trends and can predict (i.e. forecast) if your fare is likely to go up or down.
Full interview at All Things Digital
The last word goes to Mr. Ballmer when asked about Ask’s redesign and subsequent fall.
Could the same thing happen to Bing?
“No,” says Ballmer.
“Bing is too tremendous a stride. It differentiates itself from Google. It might not appeal to everyone, but if it appeals to 20 percent of them, that’s a success. Ask wasn’t able to do that.”
So, what’s your thoughts on Bing?
Drop me a line or have your say in the comments box below.