Analysis

Bing's 'daunting mission' to beat Google: 5 talking points

Microsoft has already spent billions to take on the Google search juggernaut, and it's not giving up. Here's what you need to know

When it comes to search engines, Google is the obvious giant, but rival Microsoft isn't giving up the fight. The New York Times reports on Microsoft's ongoing, "daunting mission" to take on Google with its relatively new Bing search engine. Here, five points of note:

1. It's a costly fightIt's estimated that Microsoft is spending $5 billion a year to compete with Google in the search realm. In the last fiscal year, which ended in June, Microsoft's online services division, of which Bing constitutes the majority, lost $2.56 billion. 

2. But Microsoft is making gainsIntroduced two years ago, Bing now accounts for 14 percent of internet searches in America, according to comScore. If you take into account the searches that Bing handles for Yahoo, as a result of a partnership that started last year, Microsoft handles 30 percent of searches.

3. And it's focusing on innovationMicrosoft is focused on being a "decision engine" rather than simply a search engine. "To break through, we have to change the game," says Qi Lu, the president of Microsoft's online services division. While traditional search is typically focused on nouns, rounding up "collectible figurines" or "software tips," Lu says that "the future of search is verbs — computationally discerning user intent to give them the knowledge to complete tasks." Bing's goal is to let a user state a desire, say "dinner for two on Friday and a movie," and then generate dinner and movie options based on her personal food and film preferences, her location, input from her Facebook friends' likes (via Bing's deal with Facebook), and, say, movie availability from Fandango. Lu's vision is "part intelligent software assistant and part mind reader."

4. But Google is also innovatingThe search giant has been acquiring new technology to retain its stronghold. In April, following Justice Department approval, Google purchased ITA Software, a system that collects and organizes travel information, for $700 million. In 2010 and 2009 respectively, Google picked up MetaWeb and Powerset, start-ups with technologies that can help it better discern the intentions behind search terms, not just the words themselves.

5. And Google's power is self-perpetuatingGoogle is the market leader in search, "the habitual choice," says Steve Lohr in The New York Times. Once a search engine becomes a habit, the "cycle of prosperity snowballs — more users, more data, and more ad dollars."

Read the entire article in The New York Times.

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