The buzz was about Bing last Thursday, as Microsoft Corp.'s Steve Ballmer took
center stage at the "D" tech conference near San Diego to announce the next step
for the Redmond firm's "Live Search" technology. It is now available at www.bing.com.
The thing that Bing hopes to provide is context: not just search results for
"diabetes," as a promotional video shows, but diabetes info from the Mayo
Clinic, so you know it's reliable data. Microsoft says Bing incorporates
"a new approach to go beyond search to build what we call a decision engine. With
a powerful set of intuitive tools on top of a world-class search service, Bing will
help you make smarter, faster decisions. We included features that deliver the best
results, presented in a more organized way to simplify key tasks and help you make
important decisions faster."
That's all fine and good, but of course the proof will be in the experience,
something few have enjoyed as this column went to press. Perhaps more than almost
any other tech company in history, Microsoft can put forth a good demo; the rub
often comes when demo yields to real-life use.
At the same time, we can do better in the search engine arena. Google is great for
finding stuff quickly, make no mistake, but sometimes it finds too much stuff, of
which some is less useful than others. Google can also be hit-or-miss: sometimes
it'll find the name, address and phone number of a particular business, and
sometimes it won't. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but Google's global
footprint is so huge that one sometimes expects a lot from it.
Oddly enough, I'm finding more success in searching with things that aren't even
"search engines," per se. While working on a couple of news stories in the past
14 days, I found many of the people I needed to speak with through Facebook, not via
On top of that, specialized search engines and related sites remain in vogue:
Kayak.com, for example, is a popular way to find lower-priced airfares than on sites
such as Travelocity or Expedia. I don't believe I ever used Google to search for
But that doesn't mean that Bing will have a clean shot at search engine supremacy.
Several things stand in its way, and some of them might not be cured by the
purported $80 million to $100 million Microsoft is allegedly prepared to spend
advertising the new venture.
One of the key performance issues will be its accessibility via mobile devices, such
as smartphones. Google, as noted here last year, has the "Android" operating
software for a smartphone being sold via T-Mobile. That phone has Google search
built in. Got a BlackBerry or an iPhone? Google's there too, via the "Google
Mobile App," which not only brings search, but also voice-based search, to the
Mobile search is of great interest to the millions of smartphone users
(including, one imagines, the BlackBerry-in-Chief at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), so
it's an area Microsoft will have to tackle, and quickly.