Analysts: Microsoft Bing a good start, but no game changer
Bing could lure users away from AOL, Ask.com and Yahoo
IDG News Service - Microsoft's new search engine, Bing, will help the company gain some search share against Google and has features that users will find helpful, but it is in no way a quick fix for the company's poor position in the search market, analysts said.
As expected, on Thursday Microsoft revealed a rebranded and expanded search engine, which it's promoting as a "decision engine" aimed at helping people better organize search information and find what they're looking for more quickly. The news came after months of speculation about what Microsoft would call its next iteration of Live Search and what new features it would have.
To help users find information more quickly, Bing's algorithm ranks search results based on how relevant they were for other users. The interface also organizes results according to subcategories, depending on the search term, so that people can find the next likely piece of information they may be looking for quickly.
While some of these features deliver better search results than Google's in a side-by-side comparison, it's not a drastic enough change to make people migrate in droves, said Greg Sterling, a search analyst with Sterling Market Intelligence.
"It's a strong first step or a new salvo for them, but it's not going to dramatically alter the market as it stands today," and Microsoft recognizes this, he said. "Microsoft doesn't see this as the end of the process; they see this as a new beginning. I think there are interesting things they can do to continue to advance the features."
Sterling said Bing may not pull much share from Google, but it could lure users away from the search engines of AOL, Ask.com and possibly Yahoo, though Microsoft is still rumored to be close to some kind of search deal with Yahoo, which of course would change the competitive landscape.
Gartner Group analyst Allen Weiner agreed that Bing isn't presenting a radical new way to search the Web. "I don't see anything that you can say, wow, I can't do this on Google or Yahoo," he said.
For example, three areas that Weiner thinks represent the future of search -- data visualization, semantic search and rich media search -- are missing from Bing as it was introduced on Thursday. None of the other major search-engine companies have been able to tackle these areas either, but they are heading in that direction.
However, what Bing does provide Microsoft is a way to catch up to what competitors have now in terms of features, Weiner said.
"It's a marked improvement from Live Search," he said. "They've done a lot to make the interface more usable, to make it cleaner-looking -- a lot with the algorithms to make the search results on par with their competitors for most searches."
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