Bing: Decision engine = shopping engine

Now I understand better why Microsoft characterized Bing as a decision engine, rather than a search engine: Microsoft consciously tweaked Bing to be a great shopping engine. "Decision engine" was a euphemism for shopping engine.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

I admit it: I am a Google-search diehard. Like most reporters and bloggers, I search more than the average person. And Google has served me well when searching for all kinds of obscure information, from executives' new titles, to codenames.

I am not adverse to switching search engines if there's a better one out there. After reading many glowing reviews about Bing and admiring the way it displayed search results in a more intuitive way, I've tried using it.

I'm not one of those users who use a particular search engine from habit. I am not someone swayed by brands or who refuses to use technology from a particular vendor to make a point -- other than Apple products, but that's for a whole different set of reasons (most of which echo  those articulated by fellow Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott).

In using Bing, I felt any kind of shopping-focused search worked well. When I was looking for restaurant information or airfares or the cheapest place to buy a blender, Bing worked like a champ. But when I used Bing to find specific articles I had written, or information about a particular product (not one I intended to buy), its results were fair to poor.

When Microsoft rolled out Bing this spring and called it a "decision engine," many of us pooh-poohed the Redmondians' attempt to create a new niche in the search world that wasn't already dominated by Google. But now I understand better why Microsoft characterized Bing this way: Microsoft consciously tweaked Bing to be a great shopping engine. "Decision engine" was a euphemism for shopping engine.

Frederick Savoye, Senior Director of Microsoft's Online Audience Business, admitted as much when I had a chance to ask him recently whether Microsoft had optimized Bing to be a shopping engine. He said the Bing team plans to round out Bing's search capabilities in future iterations. But in this release, Microsoft focused on helping users get the best results for searches that involved spending money -- not surprising, given that search vendors need to appease not only consumers and developers but also online advertisers.

I guess I'll wait until the next release of Bing to experiment with making it my default search engine. For now, Bing's great for finding cheap flights, but not so great when trying to do research that doesn't require a credit card.

Update: I see Microsoft is telling some folks that I "did some interpretation of my own" about Savoye's comments. For the record, I asked Savoye whether Bing was optimized to handle  shopping queries, as my experience indicated, and he said that was the case. He said Microsoft planned to round out Bing to handle other kinds of queries with its next release. No one from Microsoft has contacted me to say my post was inaccurate.

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