When it comes to search, Microsoft has been like the Ty-D-Bol Man, stuck in a leaky rowboat with the Smurf-blue waters rising on all sides. It's desperately hoping that Bing, the newly reincarnated version of Live Search unveiled by Steve "The Mad" Ballmer at this week's All Things D confab, will toss the company a lifeline.
Yeah, well, maybe. But before we get into that, let's get a few things straight.
[ Previously in Notes from the Field: "Microsoft hopes Bing's the thing to revive Live Search" | Stay up to date on Robert X. Cringely's musings and observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]
First, it's not a search engine, it's a "decision engine." Got it? Good. That distinction is apparently important. Why, I'm not exactly sure.
Also: Your fingers aren't actually fingers, they're individualized keyboard activators. And your eyes? Binocular sensory input devices.
By and large, the cynical journos on hand for Ballmer's dog and pony show seem to be giving Bing a tentative thumbs-up (or, if you will, northerly directed opposable digits). Then again, most of those people are basing their thumbage entirely on the demo.
Note: All Microsoft products look good in the demo, except when they crash in the middle of one.
Search Engine Land's Greg Sterling, one of a handful of tech-journos allowed to put his grimy fingers on the actual search decision engine, performed an extensive side-by-side comparison between Bing and Google.
His first test? To search for "Bing," of course. Google dutifully served up news results about its putative rival, whereas Bing seemed more interested in the singer Crosby and basketball-legend-turned-mayor Dave Bing. Otherwise, though, Bing handled itself well and even surpassed Google in Sterling's estimation, especially when it came to searches for travel, food, and films. He writes: