Microsoft announced this morning a new direction for—or at least some changes to—its Bing search service. And while some have curiously focused on a related change to the Bing logo, this is about more than just branding. With this week's announcement, Microsoft is (re)stating its goal to cast Bing as much more than just an online search. Instead, the firm sees the service as more than just algorithmic responses to search queries.
To be fair, this isn't a new direction, not really. It's just that many people, I think, don't seem to realize what Microsoft is trying to accomplish here. So they're explaining it. Again.
"Magic doesn’t come from just giving a list of a zillion links," Bing senior director Scott Erickson writes in a new post to the Bing Search Blog. "Magic comes from people being able to do things with the information they find and from empowering people to do what they need. Providing clarity and context for what matters. From searching for that perfect answer or mapping the quickest route to finding the latest release to watch on Xbox, Bing provides what you need in the way you need it. We’ve believed that since day one and we’ve been dedicated to making that magic every day."
OK. With that out of the way, let's look at the substance of this announcement.
Integration. Yes, you can manually launch a search query from a web browser. But by integrating Bing into Microsoft's other platforms—Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox, for example—Microsoft is also letting its customers search for information where they need it. Searching is an "old view," Erickson notes. Bing is about "finding and doing."
Insight, not lists of facts. When you search for something with Google, that firm shows that there 1.6 million results, or whatever, because that is how it measures its algorithmic success. But users just want the answer to the question, not a reminder that there is a Skynet-style overlord working behind the scenes.
Evolution of the Bing identity. This one is truly new: Microsoft announced a new Bing logo that that stylistically follows the design direction paved by recent logo updates for Windows, Office, and other Microsoft products. Honestly, I'm already awaiting the day when Microsoft abandons these sharp edges for something more natural looking and organic. But give them some credit for consistency.
New look for Bing.com. In sharp contrast to the weird new Bing logo, Bing.com has been redesigned to be "more helpful, more human, more beautiful." It's faster, cleaner and more visually appealing, Microsoft says. And they've got some plans for the future to make search results pages look better as well.
You should check out a related post at the Bing Search Blog for more about Microsoft's plans for the Bing search web site. I'm sort of surprised there was no detailed discussion about the deep Bing integration into the Windows 8.1 Smart Search feature, since this is arguably a big linchpin of this strategy.
I don't know. I still don't like that new logo.