The Search War Is On: Microsoft Unveils Bing

After weeks of speculation, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer last week took the wraps off the company's new search site, called Bing, at The Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, Calif.

The long-awaited upgrade to Live Search comes with a phalanx of related services, such as Bing Travel, Bing Cashback and Bing Maps for Enterprise. Paired with the company's legendary marketing muscle, those services should help Microsoft take on search behemoth Google Inc., analysts said.

Microsoft officials called the new offering, code-named Kumo, a "decision engine" designed to help people search the Web more intelligently and to simplify everyday tasks such as getting directions. The tool also makes it easier for users to organize search results according to their preferences, they said.

"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," Ballmer said.

"Microsoft has really trailed miserably the Google success in the search space," said Hadley Reynolds, an analyst at IDC. "They're taking on changing people's expectations about what using search should be." The Bing user interface alone is enough to make a lot of people take notice, he added.

But Stephen Arnold, president of Arnold Information Technology in Harrods Creek, Ky., said that Microsoft should have done more to differentiate Bing from Google's search technology.

"You just can't do something as good or a little better than Google," Arnold said. Microsoft should have extended the technology to support "fundamentally new queries: How authoritative is a person? Who touched a document or changed it? How much can I trust this answer? Next-generation search will allow that type of processing. does not."

The analysts agreed that Google has been preparing for a push by competitors like Microsoft and Yahoo Inc., or from well-regarded new technologies like the WolframAlpha fact engine unveiled in mid-May.

"Google has been adding enhancements and constantly adjusting things in the background," Reynolds said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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