Microsoft recently unveiled a new Web search engine, Bing, designed to understand intuitively what people are seeking on the Internet and challenge online king Google, indicating the Web search market might be more competitive than many think.
The Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft described its new product as a “decision engine” and started heavily promoting Bing.com on television in early June, an unusual move for a Web search project. Bing’s launch came shortly after Google and Yahoo announced refinements to their search services and the launch of another option, Wolfram Alpha, a query engine that delivers answers instead of lists of Web sites.
“Today, search engines do a decent job of helping people navigate the Web and find information, but they don’t do a very good job of enabling people to use the information they find,” said Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer. “When we set out to build Bing, we grounded ourselves in a deep understanding of how people really want to use the Web.”
Meanwhile, Google is hatching a new species of e-mail and instant messaging, a hybrid service evolving with the help of independent computer programmers.
The free tool, called “Google Wave,” runs in a Web browser and combines elements of e-mail, instant messaging, wikis (publicly generated content), and photo-sharing in an effort to make online communication more dynamic.
Market experts point out the Microsoft Bing launch shows how the market creates more and better competition on the Web that benefits consumers, without the need for government regulation.
Kings Eventually Fall
“History repeats itself,” said Richard Kahn, CEO of Ezanga.com, an online search portal. “At one time Yahoo was the king of search, then Google knocked them off that perch. I can definitely see history repeating itself again in this instance.
“Microsoft is [a company] that can become competitive with Google quickly because they control the desktop, and that’s a lot of control,” Kahn added. “But you still have to give people what they want.
“It’s a free market,” Kahn said. “Consumers will determine what they like and will use it if they like it. Google got to its current position because people like what they do.”
Good for Consumers
Atlanta, Georgia-based telecom and wireless analyst Jeff Kagan agrees.
“Google has been the king of search for several years, winning that spot away from previous leaders,” Kagan said. “But now perhaps they face some strong competition as search is taken to the next level by Microsoft’s Bing.
“Competition between two or more hot companies means good things for the marketplace,” Kagan added. “Google was and still is hot, but their search technology—even though better than typical competitors—has not changed dramatically over the years.
“Bing changes the search world,” Kagan said. “But the question is: Will customers care about what it offers? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then it could be a big winner.”
Phil Britt ([email protected]) writes from South Holland, Illinois.