Update: Bing.com has opened its doors.
As expected, Microsoft has launched its revamped search service today and confirmed it has picked Bing as the branding for this new endeavor. Why that name? In their words: “You probably didn't wake up today expecting an entirely new search experience. But – Bing! – here it is.” Ok… now that we got that embarrassing piece of PR out of the way, we should note that this is not just a rebranding of their previous search engine but rather a major update, touted as a “decision engine,” introducing several new features and a fresh look.
Unlike previous efforts, which mostly focused on returning links to websites based on searched terms and other algorithms, Bing tries to go a step further by actually retrieving and processing data so that results are presented in a predigested manner. For instance, searching for a particular type of restaurant will get you a scorecard for each option, with user comments and ratings for things like service, food, wait time and more.
Shopping searches return pages featuring product reviews and price comparisons, with an emphasis on Microsoft’s CashBack service for rebates, while searching for travel information will present users with options to book tickets and even predicts when the lowest fares will be available – using technology from Farecast.com. General searches are also improved with related searches links based on semantic technology from PowerSet, which it purchased in 2008, and the main search box now also features suggestions as you type.
Overall it seems Microsoft has done some vast improvements to its search product – whether or not it will be enough to steal away any of Google's search market is another thing. Bing needs to seriously impress users to save Microsoft from its dwindling presence in this segment. Unfortunately, the service will not be broadly available until next week, but you can watch an introductory video here.