London - Microsoft has unveiled a redesign of its search engine Bing, bringing it in line with the recently revamped look of the company’s other main products: Windows, Office and Xbox.
The launch video shows each of the company’s core services occupy one colour from the traditional Windows quadrant: blue becomes the Windows operating system; green the Xbox and Xbox Live; while red has been assigned to Office.
Bing occupies the remaining square, though reports over the shade vary – Microsoft itself notes that the shade is “Orange 124”, but others may call it yellow.
Thankfully, there have also been some significant changes under the hood as well, with a clutch of new features:
Page Zero: This means you now start getting returns on your search before you’ve finished typing your query (similar to Google autocomplete), but Bing also offers you a choice, “key tasks”, associated with what you’re typing. If you type in the name of an airline Bing will offer quick links to the company’s online check-in or flight tracker.
Pole Position: This is intended to address ambiguous queries, with Microsoft offering the example of the query “temple”, which might refer to a London tube station, a religious building or a university in the US. “Pole Position” is essentially what will come up when Bing is confident it knows which you’re interested in thanks to “advanced machine learning” – aka statistics and user data.
Pole Position will be used only when Bing is confident it knows what you want. Surprise surprise, when people use the formula “location + weather” they usually want to know about the weather in that location.
Sidebar: The sidebar has been around for a while now, offering queries taken from social input – that is, search results related to your Twitter and Facebook account – but now this has been integrated with another old feature, Snapshot. Snapshot offers small rectangles of information related to nouns – people, places, things – so punching in John Donne might give you the poet’s biography (culled from Wikipedia) and some portraits (courtesy of an image search). Familiar if you’ve ever used Google.
Snapshot offers quick access to noun info (people, places and things) using Microsoft’s Satori engine.
Mobile search: Hardly much of an innovation here, but Microsoft is promising that Bing has been “built from the ground up to work across devices and will adjust to the size of the screen and the context of the user”. This sort of claim is hard to verify without sitting down with a desk full of different screens, but customers quickly find out for themselves whether it is true – one frustrating experience can drive people away from a website for good. Microsoft is promising that Bing will look as good on Surface as it does on an iPad.
However, Microsoft has its own approach that might just work out in the long run – and you can glimpse it just from the new logo. As mentioned earlier, Bing now forms the fourth quadrant in Microsoft’s multipaned logo: it has not only been integrated with Windows, Office and Xbox, it is being offered as a platform of equal standing.
“Our approach at Bing has been, for a long time, not necessarily to build our own social network, not to build our own video channel, not to build all these things that we want to work with – we partner,” Microsoft’s director of Search, Stefan Weitz, said in an interview with The Verge.
Instead Microsoft want to offer Bing to other companies, to make it as easy as possible for them to adopt the search engine.
– The Independent