Friday, 10 February 2012

To Bing, or not to Bing?

Post migrated from previous blog. Written August 1st, 2011.

Bing. If you've not heard of it (you must be living under a rather large anti-tech rock), it is the latest attempt of Microsoft to pierce the search engine market. Launching in June, 2009, it included a lot of features not present in previous versions of Microsoft search tools and looked to be a more sharply defined and advertised tool.

Simply a vast, money sink-hole

If you're like me, you're probably thinking "why would Microsoft possibly be trying to play catch up, in this already advanced market, saturated by the biggest search-giant of them all. Google has grown from a small company, with an awesome product, into a massive one - with an even better product. When looking at the amounts that are being spent on Bing by Microsoft, I at first agreed with one writer's opinion. That Bing was simply a vast "money sink-hole", eating into profits. When you hear that last year it lost the company $2.56 billion, how could you not agree?

After reading this statistic, this got me thinking. Are Microsoft just being this dumb with money, or are they actually learning from other's successes and really being quite smart.

Too late for a makeover?

Microsoft, it seems to me, have been seen as this uncool, money-grabbing, company that doesn't mind delivering sub-par tools (I'm not bringing another IE6 rant into this, but you get my point). However, with the recent launch of Windows Phone 7 software, looks at the Windows 8 OS and, of course, the shiny new Microsoft stores that are opening, I think Microsoft are really beginning to be getting their image together (and hopefully their product-quality, too). Sure, they're late to the party - but come on... it's Microsoft, what else would we expect?

Despite the huge loss last year, Bing is actually gaining market-share. In the US, at least, is has moved to 27% (this is including Microsoft's latest deal, seeing Bing power the Yahoo portal). This is up from only 7% last year. Although I do not use it myself, nor can I honestly say I know people who do, clearly some people are.

One reason Google has done as well as it has is due to it knowing that a search engine that works well, can be the back-bone to many other products and integrate into devices seamlessly, producing powerful results. You only need look at the Android platform to see this theory in action. Allowing search features to integrate into navigation, news and weather updates, sports results and even voice analysis and search. Integrating this kind of tool on small, generally power-lacking devices such as mobile phones works well. Very well.

A limp extra tool, or a sturdy software backbone?

With this in mind, it strikes me that Microsoft might be aiming for something similar. Just selling Bing, and saving them that loss of money, has been the solution many have said Microsoft should be pursuing. But I think Microsoft might be smart in not heeding this advice, and trundling on - improving upon it's search quality and Bing user base. If the Windows Phone 7 continues to gain popularity, and the move into tablet territory that looks obvious after seeing the first look at Windows 8 happens, Bing really could come into it's own and be the backbone of Microsoft software on PCs and mobile devices alike.

Although many seem to think Microsoft have lost it, I think this is one small sign that they are actually very much serious about getting back as a forefront contender in the game. Despite my still-lingering scepticism about how they will do, I think this might be a little more exciting than I first thought.

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