Microsoft has had a rough few years. There are more self-identifying Republicans in America than Microsoft Live Search users, the Zune would be joke except nobody talks about it, and their public face is pudgy little John Hodgman looking stupid in those Apple commercials. But now they're about to role out a new search engine called Bing, and you know what? It looks pretty good!
"The world doesn't need just another search engine. It needs a decision engine," Bing's ad video says. Maybe, but more importantly: Microsoft doesn't need just another Zune. It's needs a major profit-driving innovation. Its share of the search engine market has fallen below 10%, while Google's has shot up to the mid 60s. Microsoft used to be an American behemoth. Now it's a bit like the Oliver Stone of the tech world: technically respected, increasingly considered out of touch, and long seeking its next big hit. Is this it?
Well look, a search engine is a search engine. (Unless it's a computational knowledge engine.) But Bing seems to have some pretty good, simple ideas for making it easier for the increasing number of online shoppers
to find what they're looking for. On the left hand side of the search (see below),
it categorizes criteria for products, like digital cameras
(affordability, speed, photo quality) and travel. In fact, searching
for travel on Bing looks almost exactly like searching on Kayak and
Priceline, with all those sidebar options for time and price. This
strikes me as a great idea. As I understand it right, it's basically
like taking the ability to sort for criteria on tech sites like CNET
and travel sites like Kayak and placing them right in the search engine
results page. And if I understand it wrong, then it should do that. Free consulting.
At the same time it should be said that Bing looks really nice. Here's a screen shot of the search home from PCWorld:
So I'm optimistic about Bing's roll out. There's a couple blogs snarking
on the name, as though Google and Yahoo don't sound like noises a baby
makes when you burp it. Also I approve of the name if for no other
reason than that Chandler was my favorite character in Friends and I'm happy to see that the legacy lives on.