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Bada Bing ... Microsoft 'decision engine' aims to take search leaders down a peg

May 28, 2009 |  1:42 pm

Bing Microsoft's new Bing search engine, unveiled this morning by CEO Steve Ballmer, is being positioned as an alternative to the busy, confusing search engines of today.  This more elegant and intuitive "decision engine," Microsoft says, will help consumers distill useful information on commerce-friendly topics such as shopping, travel, health and local business.

The new engine, which will launch next Wednesday, will vary the way it displays results based on the type of info a consumer is looking for. It might be an Expedia-like list of airplane flights, an Amazonian array of customer reviews and price comparisons for digital cameras, or Yelp-esque view of local restaurants, sortable by factors such as price, parking or atmosphere.

"Bing helps you overcome search overload," says a promotional video on the product's website.  To do that, it presents search results in a more logical, user-friendly format, "instead of spitting them out in order of popularity."

The rather negative tone of words like "spitting" and "overload" seem to suggest that market-leading search engines like Google may be bludgeoning consumers with more data than they need.

Rather than introducing a revolutionary approach to presenting information, Bing appears to stitch together its own versions of the Web's most popular planning and decision tools, potentially saving consumers the trouble of navigating to specialized sites.

Microsoft’s redoubled focus on commerce-related search is likely a reflection of the online advertising market, in which sellers pay more to put their ads in front of consumers who are already shopping.

The company's search tools captured just 8.2% of the market, according to comScore's April 2009 report.  That put the company a distant third behind Google (64.2%) and Yahoo (20.4%).

-- David Sarno

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