It's catch up time...
Microsoft is getting serious again on search. In an effort to close the gap on runaway leader Google the Redmond giant has announced 'Bing' - a replacement for the Live Search brand.
Rolled out as a beta product from 3 June, Microsoft hopes Bing will reboot its current offering with a new intuitive layout and more relevant information including the likes of 'Best Match' (which identifies the best result for popular queries) and 'Instant Answers' (quick results in the body of the first search results page).
On top of this we learn the rather loose information that there will be "more functionality in key consumer areas including shopping, local search and travel leading to faster, more informed decisions." Not overly enlightening at this point. Lastly a more dynamic homepage will change daily to reflect the location and news agenda. From here Microsoft will roll out incremental improvements as the year goes on. Yes, it does all sound rather Google.
"Bing is being built in the UK over the next six to twelve months based on consumer insights and is designed to help people find the shortest distance from their initial Search query to the point of making an informed decision," said Microsoft UK Search Lead Paul Stoddart.
I did a little chasing for more and learnt on the mobile side, the service will also be rebranded to Bing over time with any links to Live Search being automatically redirected. This will also take place within the same timescale as the main service.
As for the name - something of a talking point already, Microsoft explained to me:
"We were looking for a name that was short, easy to say and spell, and would be globally appropriate. In addition, we were looking for names that carried inherent qualities that spoke to the search category itself. Our research around Bing showed that it demonstrated 'fast', 'easy' and 'delight'—all qualities that mapped very naturally to the search experience. It was also seen as the friendliest and most approachable name option."
A bit fluffy yes, but you can also see that Microsoft was looking for a term that could be turned into a verb, much as Google has done. In a few years will we say "I'm just going to Bing it"? Personally, it'll take a lot for me just to break The Sopranos connection...
Update: Microsoft has now posted a video of Bing in action (yep, it's looking impressive - at least in theory):
In related news Microsoft has extended the expiration date for the Windows 7 beta that was launched in January. Despite the Release Candidate now being available and going great guns Microsoft has told beta version users that it will now start automatically shutting down every two hours from 1 July, not 1 June.