Microsoft Search Leads to Bing

NEW YORK Throughout its ongoing Google chase, Microsoft executives, including founder Bill Gates himself, have repeatedly decried the current state of Web search as lacking. Now, the company gets another shot at proving it can do search better.

As expected, Microsoft has officially announced the launch of Bing, its new search engine brand, which will go live on June 3. The company is touting the product as a “decision engine” that has been designed to help users solve immediate problems faster by narrowing down the number of search results it delivers. And without naming Google directly, Microsoft is emphasizing Bing’s ability to save users from sifting through thousands of links for every search they conduct — i.e. the typical Google search experience.

“Lots of links aren’t always the most helpful way to answer your question,” said Stefan Weitz, Microsoft’s director, search group, in a promotional Bing video. “What if we could cut through those endless lists of links and give you great results quickly?”

To do so, Bing promises to automatically group search results in various categories, depending on the type of searches users are conducting.

Though many of the details on Bing remain under wraps, based on several promotional videos, the site features a classic white search box at the top of its page. But results are instantly broken into different topics, such as shopping, travel and health.

The site also provides users with suggested search results (much like Google) and allows for simple task-oriented searches, such as providing flight information or traffic conditions without requiring users to visit other sites.

David Berkowitz, director of emerging media and client strategy at 360i, is impressed with what he’s seen so far with Bing. “I’m still waiting for the full picture, but this is easily Microsoft’s best search experience to date,” he said. “This is a very serious upgrade.”

Still, Berkowitz injected some caution: “This is what most people have been waiting for from Microsoft for years. But now Google is only more entrenched. For Bing, the presentation is the most obvious change. I’m very curious to see how much more relevant its results are. Relevance is something that you notice only when its not there.”

Microsoft’s marketing plan for Bing — estimated at $100 million — may be just as crucial as the product itself, since most Web users don’t seem as dissatisfied with Google’s ability to deliver relevant results as Microsoft might think.

“I’m wondering how much the average consumer is going to be able to tell this is something different,” Berkowitz said. “The ads need to communicate that. If you look at the growth of Google, people only keep relying on it more. If it really stunk, Google wouldn’t be in the position they’re in.”