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New York Times Examines Microsoft Bing

The New York Times today published a write-up about Microsoft Bing and the team behind it. There's a bit of new information in there, and it's a good read overall.

According to the article:

Bing is expensive. "Trying to go head-to-head with Google costs Microsoft upward of $5 billion a year, industry executives and analysts estimate," the article reads. But a few paragraphs later, we find out that "in the latest fiscal year, the online services division — mainly the search business — lost $2.56 billion. The unit’s revenue rose 15 percent, to $2.53 billion, but the losses still exceeded the revenue." OK. But where did the $5 billion cost per year come from? And if Microsoft's numbers don't verify that figure, why print it right up front?

Bing Deskbar. Here's something new: software still in the concept stage, called Bing DeskBar. "It is downloadable software for personal computers, and perhaps for smartphones and tablets. The DeskBar, in the early June prototype, sorts information by categories like people, documents and Web sites. It presents information in those categories in large on-screen icons, or tiles, and sorts data by what is most 'recent, relevant and frequently used,' as one designer says."

The people feature, for example, sorts through communications including e-mail, Facebook and Twitter messages. The idea is to filter messages according to computed criteria — like those from your work colleagues, or from people you communicate with most often. DeskBar is one of several experimental projects in the larger Bing strategy.

Bing's next wave. "Bing's next wave of improvements ... would be released into the search engine a few weeks later. The upgrades have come in six-month cycles since the preparations for Bing’s introduction in May 2009.

Each cycle is named for a city. First was Kiev, then Oslo, Boston and Denver. A recent upgrade was called Mountain View, for the Silicon Valley town where Google is based. The next three cycles will be named for rock bands formed in West Coast cities, gradually moving closer to Microsoft's base: Metallica (Los Angeles), Nirvana (Aberdeen, Wash.) and Soundgarden (Seattle).

Advertising. Bing is a "solid number 2 behind Google," and its share of click volume from search ads has grown to 24 percent, from 14 percent, in the last nine months.

"Microsoft is not yet translating its search traffic — that 30 percent share in the United States, including the Yahoo partnership — into comparable ad dollars," the article notes. "Revenue per search from Yahoo traffic it handles is far less than it was when Yahoo managed its own search ads, Yahoo said in its recent earnings report. But Microsoft and Yahoo executives say the shortfall is temporary, a result of making a complex technology switch while a business is running."

Related: Infographics comparing Bing to Google

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