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Search war is on: Microsoft's Bing fires salvo at Google

Steve Ballmer unveils Bing (aka Kumo) in bid to take search in new direction

May 28, 2009 01:51 PM ET

Computerworld - After weeks of speculation and pre-release ballyhoo by bloggers and online commentators, Microsoft Corp. this morning took the wraps off its new search site, Bing.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made the announcement at the All Things Digital Conference in Carlsbad, California. The long-awaited upgrade to the company's less than beloved Live Search service, Bing, formerly known as Kumo, comes with a phalanx of related services, like Bing Travel, Bing Cashback and Bing Maps for Enterprise.

And Microsoft, in an attempt to stand out from rival and market top dog Google Inc., is trying to avoid the "search engine" moniker, calling its newly updated service a "decision engine." The service is expected to be rolled out over the next few days with an official launch set for June 3.

But repeated attempts to access the site during the first one to two hours after the announcement resulted in a blank, white screen.

"Microsoft has really trailed miserably the Google success in the search space," said Hadley Reynolds, a senior director at IDC. "They really need to come up with something extraordinary to change the momentum. And they're making a big attempt with this release to change the field. They're taking on changing people's expectations about what using search should be -- the experience of using search."

With, Microsoft is hoping to help users get the information they're searching for faster, or with fewer clicks. The service is designed, for instance, to offer pop-up windows that will summarize the information on a Web site to save the user from clicking in only to find it's not what they need. The site also is set up to organize search results with navigation and search tools on the left-hand side of the page, as well as offering up different categories of results and even the user's sought-after information on the search results page.

"Today, search engines do a decent job of helping people navigate the Web and find information, but they don't do a very good job of enabling people to use the information they find," said Ballmer. "When we set out to build Bing, we grounded ourselves in a deep understanding of how people really want to use the Web. Bing is an important first step forward in our long-term effort to deliver innovations in search that enable people to find information quickly and use the information they've found to accomplish tasks and make smart decisions."

Online search analyst Stephen Arnold, who runs the Web site, said Microsoft took the wrong road in coming out with a search engine that will compete with Google.

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