Bing search engine a step forward

Written by John Dodge, Contributor

Like you, I spend a lot of time in Google search wading through results. But this morning, I tried out Bing ( code-named Kumo), Microsoft's new search engine and for what I do , it's pretty smart.

For instance, I am always researching netbook specs because I have a blog on them called The Dodge Retort. I punch in "HP  Mini" and up pops a pane to the left listing news, reviews, specs and several other categories on the initial results page that help refine my search.  Plain vanilla lists of specs rank high on my search priorities so this could be a real time saver. Beneath that is a list of related search such as HP MIni notebooks, keyboard and computer.

On the second page, I still have to wade through results to get the spec list I want, but I like idea. Unfortunately, the pane does not always come up with the topics that help me refine my search. For instance, I punch in Dell Mini 10v and the only topic to come was shopping. Entering Asus Eee got me a the richer list appears as with the HP Mini search.

Despite somewhat inconsistent performance, I like what Microsoft has done with Bing. And given Google has three quarters of the search market, Microsoft is now the try-harder underdog.

Here's another improvement. Images are a standing category on the Bing home page and I always looking for them. Punch in Dell Mini 10v, I get dozens of image thumbnails rather than a list of search results. This is potentially a time saver for me. It's the same for videos which you can preview before opening, shopping, news, maps and travel. Google can do the same thing, but in two clicks instead of one (Bing, however, was the impetus to make me find out that Google can do this...getting good with search engine requires practice and experimentation!)

Another Bing benefit is better local search. For instance, let's enter "pizza, Portland, Maine". The first search result includes eight addresses and phones numbers of pizza parlors plus a map showing where they are. Most of the time, that's all I would want with a pizza joint search. Bing will do this most every time  It worked the same for "French restaurants, Toledo" (there are three!).

Try this. Input a flight number such as United 12 and the first result is the departure and arrival status of today's United flight 12 from Calgary to Denver flight. That's impressive, but then again, Google does the same thing.

Bing promises "simple, organized and consistent." I've played with it enough to know it's a step forward for Microsoft search. Google has made advances too and my colleague Hiawatha Bray writes who still likes the King of search better writes about them in this morning's Boston Globe. But for this post, Bing is cherry of my eye.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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