Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Liveblogging Bing Demo: No Donuts, Unlikely to Pay for De-Indexing Google, but Cool New Maps


Earlier today, BoomTown posted about a visit this morning from a passel of top Microsoft search execs rolling into downtown San Francisco to show off even more new features for Bing.

I am here, but the donuts are not. Um, Google always has organic donuts!

In any case, the lineup included: Satya Nadella, SVP for research and development for the Online Services Division; Harry Shum, a corporate VP who is leading core search development; and Brian MacDonald, corporate VP for Core Search Program Management.

As I previously wrote:

“The rolling-stone-gathers-no-moss team at the software giant–which has been seeing some promising progress in its quest to raise its search market share with its snappy new service–has announced an ongoing series of features since Bing was launched earlier this year.”

It’s 10:07 am PT and I await new wisdom from Microsoft (MSFT).

10:10 am: Nadella, the point man on Bing technology, begins.

He kicks off the show with some stats and a main point: Microsoft’s search share has, as his first slide reads: “Still a long way to go.”

At 9.9 percent versus Google’s (GOOG) share of more than 70 percent, Nadella is correct. But that is up from eight percent in a short time, so not bad.

Unique monthly visitors are also up from 71.7 million to 83.3 million. And perception, which was low, is now 48 percent.

In other words, more consumers seem to know what Bing is.

Personally, if I were Microsoft, I would declare victory and quit now!

10:19 am: A demo dude arrives to show “task” pages, which cluster around intent of searchers.

These are cool, and he’s showing a John Mayer page, which includes concerts and more. I hate that whiny singing dude, demo dude. He was mean to Jennifer Aniston, so he is dead to me.

Phew, the demo dude moves on to Miami. I love Miami. Trying to gauge intent, there is a slideshow available, better weather (rainy but 82 degrees!) and flight info. Plus no John Mayer!

Next, demo dude does movies. He shows times for the freaky “Paranormal Activity” and then offers hi-def trailers. Demo dude’s wife wants him to see it. I advise against it, unless he wants to be looking under the bed for the rest of his life.

Now the cheeky Softies, showing off how good Bing’s info is about Apple, (AAPL); display financial info and even the customer service number. I contemplate ordering a Mac.

This is followed by moves through universities and diseases (with related drug cards).

10:30 am: The demo dude moves on to an early look-see of Bing’s its upcoming Facebook deployment, using its already-announced Visual Search.

It’s apparently going to be very easy to be a stalker on Bing!

On to Twitter, with access to tweets in a variety of ways, from the most tweeted to most popular. Ashton Kutcher pops up like an inevitable Twitter weed, of course.

Nadella comes back and explains that this is being done to “browse to your intent.”

And now it is time for a mobile search update.

Guess what? Intent and search completion in a mobile context is time-sensitive! Who knew?

Actually, I did know and so did the whole world. Here is my typical mobile search: “Where the *&%# is that restaurant/kid party/gas station?”

10:38 am: A new demo dude (let’s call him demo dude #2) is showing off the recent mobile app for Bing, which came out a few weeks ago.

Lots of maps, although he says, “it’s more than just finding something on a map.”

Demo dude #2 types a “T,” which stands for AT&T, and stock info pops up.

He talks into the phone now for weather in Redmond, Wash., where Microsoft has its HQ. Cold and rainy! Which is a shocker for the Seattle area this time of year.

Demo dude #2 does movies and sports, showing a lot of what is on the Web. This is not much different than many mobile apps, but it works nicely.

Nadella seems to be promising an iPhone app soon too, noting that Microsoft will have them for all platforms, but he does not say it outright.

10:47 am: Now, Nadella is onto spatial search, which I like to call “oooh-that’s-pretty search.”

Therefore, we need a third demo dude. Demo dude #3 has a beard!

But he has a real new feature! A new mapping technology, powered by Microsoft’s Silverlight video technology, in beta within minutes. You can see it in action here.

It includes a Google competitor that has been called “streetside” before, with several new twists, which demo dude #3 is calling a “mash-in” (compared to a mashup, which is done a lot with Google by third-party folks).

The demo appears very seamless in comparison, using 3-D modeling and photorealism by integrating its Photosynth research work.

He shows a cool look at a museum and then the French American International School in San Francisco.

In this demo, demo dude #3 was looking at restaurants, which shows reviews and also the whole scene around it, including info on the parking garage you can see.

There is now a Map App gallery, most of which made by Microsoft right now.

11:07 am: A Twitter dude is brought up to show how the microblogger is part of this new mapping stuff from Microsoft, which he calls an “ecosystem.”

Using new geolocating tools on the microblogging service, it shows all kinds of geospatial information of tweets.

Twitter recently signed a data-mining deal with Microsoft, as well as Google.

So, it looks like Microsoft and Google are really going to be duking it out in the online mapping of everyone’s lives. And I look forward to this fight and the eventuality that they will want to map my every move. Bing it on!

11:10 am: Nadella wraps up, essentially trying to keep differentiating Bing from Google.

“We do hundreds of experiments a day,” he says, releasing as many features as possible.

It’s a good stance for a lesser competitor to have: Bing, We Try Harder!

Big words for Microsoft: Intent versus query. Whole page versus blue links. Minimizing time versus task completing. Search hit-or-miss versus dialog.

11:16 am: Q&A!

A question about human versus technology in perfecting this intent goal.

MacDonald and Nadella note that humans are important, but Bing is built around the big computing systems that do this automatically.

Will the structured page be indexable? Meaning Google? No real answer! But I would love to see Microsoft go all Rupert Murdoch on the search giant!

Then comes a question about premium or “non-Google” content. Nadella avoids the question and instead focuses on the “scaffolding” the data.

“We’re not as focused on getting exclusive content,” he says flatly. Uh-oh, publishers! As I reported, Microsoft is not forking over the dough.

MacDonald also tries to stress that Google wants folks off its site and onto the query result and that Bing is focusing on delivering that result right.

Everything is not a command line, declares MacDonald.

On a question of openness and the need to use Microsoft Silverlight technology for some of the rich visual mapping, versus Ajax, Nadella points out the service is too small not to be. Good point!

But Microsoft execs, who often shove their tech right down consumers’ throats, are nearly apologetic about having to use Silverlight (except they add, of course, that it is better!).

Nadella gets another question about paying to de-index Google.

“There is no real intent here that is focused on getting a whole bunch of content that is de-indexed from Google,” he said.

Some more questions about Bing monetization (it had better make money!) and global share.

Since Google is cleaning the clocks of everyone even worse abroad, Bing is focusing on the U.S.

I ask about how the Yahoo (YHOO) deal is going. “Well!”

And while Yahoo seems to be losing some search share to Microsoft, Nadella said his company would provide any “core” technology Yahoo wants to use given that Microsoft will be providing the search platform.

It would have been nice if Yahoo search had done this itself, of course, but Nadella said Yahoo could use the mapping and even task pages.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work