Microsoft seemed magnanimous in its public response to Google Instant, which offers real-time results as users type queries into the search bar. The service, which launched Sept. 7, broadens the contrast between Google and Bing, Microsoft's search engine.
"It's great to see continued innovation in search, in particular the level of energy in this space over the last 12-15 months," Mike Nichols, Bing's general manager, wrote in a Sept. 9 statement e-mailed to eWEEK. "From improving accuracy of results to speeding up time to complete tasks, there are a lot of opportunities to improve today's search engine and we're working hard to do so. When Bing and Google compete to improve search, consumers win."
Google executives have toted Instant as a time-saver for users, who spend an average of 9 seconds entering a search query and another 15 seconds choosing a hyperlink from the results page. By predicting what users want as they type, Google Instant-at least in theory-reduces the time involved in that process.
Released close on the heels of Google Realtime Search, Google Instant seems destined to raise the competitive gambit with Bing, which has been adding new features of its own. The two companies have spent the past year locked in a pattern of mutual search-engine escalation, with each adding new rounds of features and refinements in response to the other. Even before Google launched a formal Realtime Search page, which aggregates real-time information from Twitter and other sources, Microsoft had launched Bing Twitter with similar functionality.
Microsoft will likely remain close-lipped about whether it plans to follow Google's foray into instant results. That past history, however, indicates that such a move is within the realm of possibility.
Microsoft has also worked to tilt Bing more toward the look and feel of a Yahoo-like Web portal, with a new Entertainment tab that leads to features about Music, Movies, TV, Games and Video Games. Those features include streaming songs via Microsoft's Zune service, full-length episodes from over 1,500 shows and casual online games.
Although Google commands the lion's portion of the U.S. search-engine market, Yahoo's recent integration of Bing for its back-end search raises Microsoft's share to nearly 25 percent, according to recent data from market researcher HitWise. Once broken out, Yahoo holds 14.3 percent and Bing 9.9 percent, in contrast to Google's 71.6 percent. Under the terms of the 10-year agreement, Yahoo will also become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies' search advertisers.
Microsoft executives have acknowledged Google's dominance of traditional keyword search, and emphasized in interviews over the past few months that Bing will stay focused on verticals such as commercial-based queries as a way to maintain and grow its own market share.