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Posted at 10:57am on 01 Jun 2009

I Can't Believe It's Not Google

Microsoft have announced bing, a new web search engine.

I know what you're thinking - another poor man's Google, like MSN search and Live Search before it, right? Actually, no, it's remarkable. It appears on the face of it to be a slightly superior version of Google, matching it feature for feature (including all those little extras you like such as image search and a built in calculator/unit converter) but with extra bits too. In particular the video search with integrated preview on hover is pretty cool, and it contains a number of contextual search features - search for two destinations and it will give you travel times and recommendations, for example (mostly US only for now).

What lets it down is the branding. Not just the look and feel (it looks for the most part almost exactly like Google, but with a rubbish, irrelevant stock photo blended into the design), but if the pundits are to be believed, the name bing stands for But it's not Google! I mean, seriously?!

Initially I thought that this was one of those "Microsoft beta" side projects that will quietly vanish, but it looks like live.com is now redirecting to bing, so bing really is the new face of Microsoft Live Search. So what the hell is with the branding? How do you build a brand identity around not being the current market leader? Why are they calling it "Not Google"? That's absurd! I'm surprised you can even trademark it. And what about all that money they wasted on the Live brand, is that going to all quietly dissapear now - should we expect Bing mail and Bing maps to be forthcoming?

It's hard to fathom how Bing fits into Microsoft's corporate strategy - or even if they have one. I fully expect them to now release a product called But it's not iPod to compete with the Zune.

Microsoft seems to have an alarming talent for getting incredible engineers to build amazing (if derivative) pieces of technology and then totally screwing up the marketing.