Microsoft is making improvements to its Bing search engine to surface answers more quickly for its users in the hope of helping them make purchasing decisions. Microsoft demonstrated these changes at the Search Engine Stratregies show in New York March 25, showing Bing on a Windows Phone 7 Series device and a real-time integration with location-sharing service Foursquare. The new features are the latest move in the company's broad effort to gain more market share from Google and Yahoo.
NEW YORK -- Microsoft is making improvements to its Bing search engine to surface
answers more quickly for its users in the hope of helping them make purchasing
Mehdi, senior vice president of the Online Audience Business for Bing,
demonstrated these changes at the Search Engine Strategies show here March 25. The alterations, which go live for all users this summer,
are the latest move in the company's effort to gain more market share
Bing's quick tabs feature, which sits in Bing's left rail
to let users click once to refine search queries taking weather, events and
maps into account, will soon surface information to the top of the page for one-click
Mehdi conducted a search on the pop artist Taylor Swift, which
returned links for images, news, events videos and reference articles directly
under the search box instead of in the left rail.
Clicking on the events quick
tab brought Mehdi to a list of concert dates for Swift. Clicking on a
date surfaced prices and links to purchase tickets for the event from
purveyors such as
Ticketmaster and StubHub.
This also works for Bing Travel. Mehdi searched on Bing
for "Miami Beach" returned maps of the area, as well as weather
results, hotels, spas and other info much higher in the results than
before. He clicked into Bing Travel, where it offered him the chance to
book flights and hotels.
"This really resonates with consumers," Mehdi
said. "They get tired of the links and the text. They want to come in and
see the images and visuals as a way to discover information."
The Bing team is also leveraging real-time search results in addition to its Bing Twitter site. Specifically, Mehdi
showed that when users search for a publication such as the New York Times,
Bing will return not only the customer service phone number of that
publication, but the most popular shared links from that publication.
Mehdi then surprised the crowd by demoing the Bing search
application for a
Windows Phone 7 Series smartphone. Though in prototype, the executive scrolled up
and down the touch screen, and searched for sushi restaurants.
This particular device was just in Las Vegas for CTIA;
the device recognized that city as the location and retrieved Las Vegas-based
sushi restaurants. Mehdi then accessed the ratings and reviews sections, which
looked very clean.
Mehdi then showed changes to Bing Maps, specifically how
Bing is providing street-level views for users and letting users overlay photos
onto interactive maps. For example, he took a Pike Place market photo from 1919 and put
it on the current Pike Place map.
Another exciting tool that is forthcoming is
a live action video feed on Bing Maps. In his demo, Mehdi showed a live feed of
a man throwing fish in a Pike Place market. This was overlaid atop the current
Pike Place map on Bing.
Mehdi said users will be eventually able to search Bing Maps to see
if there is a line at the local Starbucks, or whether a bus is coming on time.
"Here you have the amazing power of geospatial data
rendered in a 3-D, accurate picture and then you can overlay and have other
people overlay it," Mehdi said.
He then called Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley to the stage.
Mehdi and Crowley previewed a new map app that brings data from the Foursquare location-sharing
app into Bing maps to help users see where their friends are in real time. Users
can see who has unlocked specific badges and where and who has been crowned
mayor of certain venues.
"This is one of the first times we've really been able to visualize
Foursquare on a map like this, which is great," Crowley said.
The partnership with Foursquare, recalling Microsoft's
deals with Twitter and Wolfram Alpha, underscores the company's
commitment to integrating with popular Web services.
The Foursquare integration on Bing will be live in the
next couple of days. Roughly 5 percent of current Bing users will see some of
these other search features now.
These changes are part of Microsoft's gradual but
steady attack on Google, the market share leader in the U.S. with 65 percent of
search users. Bing has roughly 11.5 percent, but stands to gain more fairly
quickly as it continues its back-end integration with Yahoo.
Bing Director Stefan Weitz recently told eWEEK Microsoft is focusing
on determining user intent in searches to deliver more valuable
results. Mehdi made the same case at SES.