Bing: Microsoft's new search... er, decision engine

Microsoft took the wraps off the new version of its search engine -- and its new search brand, "Bing" -- at the D7 conference on May 28.

Microsoft took the wraps off the new version of its search engine -- and its new search brand, "Bing" -- at the D7 conference on May 28.

More surprising than the actual brand choice (which I first noted was under consideration in August 2008) is the way Microsoft is trying to reposition the whole search category. Microsoft is calling Bing a "decision engine" instead of a "search engine." Microsoft's reasoning: Customers are ready to move "beyond search" and Bing will help them make better decisions.

Microsoft plans to begin rolling out Bing, available at Bing.com, "over the coming days." Full worldwide deployment is slated to be completed by June 3.

Like previous versions of Live Search, Bing includes various vertical search -- er, decision-making -- subcategories: Shopping, travel, healthcare and local. With the Bing launch, Microsoft is adding a new category to its vertical list: Virtual Earth maps. All of these properties are getting a Bing facelift, so the current "Farecast" travel search is now known as "Bing Travel," and Virtual Earth becomes "Bing Maps for Enterprise."

However Microsoft describes its new engine, Microsoft has nowhere to go but up in the search market. According to comScore data, the company's search-query share has barely buoyed above eight percent for the past year-plus. Google continues to completely dominate the category with more than 60 percent share. Yahoo, Microsoft's former takeover target, has weighed in with 20 percent or so.

Microsoft's previous rebrandings of its search engine (from Windows Live Search, to Live Search) didn't help matters. Nor did the fact that the majority of potential search users had no idea that Microsoft's search engine could be found by going to www.live.com.

Microsoft is planning to spend somewhere between $80 million and $100 million with advertising agency JWT to try to spread the word about Bing. (JWT is the same agency that last year won the bid to help try to salvage Microsoft’s “People Ready” campaign for business software.)

The company is continuing to pour multiple millions into its Online Systems Business (OSB), hoping that by throwing technology at the search problem, it will be able to out-algorithm its competitors. Last year, it acquired semantic search vendor PowerSet, and is believed to be incorporating that technology into the first iteration of Bing in an attempt to improve the quality of search results with Bing.

Microsoft is emphasizing that Bing features a number of improvements in "core search areas, including entity extraction and expansion, query intent recognition and document summarization technology as well as a new user experience model that dynamically adapts to the type of query to provide relevant and intuitive decision-making tools," according to the company's press release.

I'm curious: If you're not already a Microsoft search user, what would make you switch?  What would it take for you to "Bing it" instead of "Google it"?