Microsoft targets Bing search at Asia

update Company launches Bing, invests in Asian languages and banks on user disloyalty to wrestle market share from current search leaders, Google and Baidu.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

update With the upcoming launch of its new Bing search engine, Microsoft is taking on Asian languages and banking on user disloyalty to wrestle market share away from current leaders.

In a conference call with reporters Friday, Microsoft executives said the company has three "search technology centers" in India, China and Japan to work on refining the search engine for these large Asian markets.

Satya Nadella, senior vice president of research and development at Microsoft's online services division, said some languages require more contextual information to be understood. He added that the company's investments will focus on building up the ability of its machines to interpret and grasp "different techniques" of understanding context.

On the competition from Google and Baidu, Nadella quoted Forrester statistics, noting that 55 percent of users are using more than one search engine each week. Bing, to be launched 3 June, will "build loyalty one click at a time", he said.

Google has the biggest global market share of about 63 percent, with Microsoft's slice at a tiny 8.3 percent, according to February ComScore figures.

But Google trails Baidu significantly in the Chinese market.

The Chinese search engine attracts 60 percent of its domestic market, while Google came in with 25.9 percent, according to January statistics from Analysys.

Qi Lu, president of Microsoft's online services group, could not provide details on the features Bing would have for the Chinese market, but said the company was working to bring localized features, in addition to focusing on language translation, to appeal to each market.

Nadella said users are still "highly dissatisfied" with search, and have many "unmet needs". While almost half of Internet users search the Web everyday, a quarter of links clicked on are abandoned for being irrelevant and the "back" button is the most clicked-on, he added.

To address this, Bing will display topics around the user's query to help users "describe their searches better", Nadella said. It will offer related search terms and group results "in intuitive ways", one of which will be in the form of a table of contents for the different resulting categories of a search performed.

This trend of "intelligently" displaying connected topics is not new. Earlier this month, Google launched a visualization feature it terms the "wonder wheel", which displays relevant topics to a user's search, and expands as the user clicks on branched topics, to narrow down categories.

New search engine, Hulbee, too displays results in a keyword "cloud", which is meant to help users refine their searches.

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