Microsoft stole headlines early this year when screenshots of its new Kumo search engine were leaked. The engine looked to reinvent the search engine wheel, while sporting a quirky name to boot. However, as it nears launch, it now looks that Microsoft may cast the Kumo name aside and throw another equally bizarre name in its place as it prepares to launch the new engine. Welcome to Microsoft Bing.
Reports indicate that Microsoft will rename Kumo to a finalized brand name Bing. In order to promote Bing, Microsoft reportedly is planning an $80M to $100M USD online, TV, print, and radio advertising push, according to AdAge. As AdAge points out, that total would be more than Google's entire 2008 advertising budget of $25M USD.
Inspired by the success of its "Laptop Hunter" commercials against competitor Apple, Microsoft is hoping that a similar push might convince users to forsake Google and take up Bing. However, the new ads will reportedly not name any competitors -- not Google, Yahoo, or even Ask.com.
Rather, they will state to users that "today's search engines" aren't good enough. Microsoft cites its studies which indicate that 42 percent of searches have to be refined, while 25 percent of post-search clicks result in the user hitting the back button to return to the search page.
As with Kumo, Bing will add "related categories" to the search experience in hopes of having the user find their final desired search easier. For example, a search for Dave Matthews Band might yield "lyrics", "biography", or "albums" as suggested modifiers.
While the idea is certainly creative, some critics say it won't be enough to beat Google and smaller player Yahoo. Google has already launched similar tools and Yahoo looks to launch similar ones within a couple months. However, when it comes to Kumo/Bing, no one really knows quite how well it will do as Microsoft has been extremely secretive about the engine -- few outside its CEO and the engine's designers have seen it.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will reportedly introduce Bing officially at the D: All Things Digital conference, which will run from May 26 to May 28. He will try to convince users to stop "Googling" and start "Binging."
He and his company face a tough road ahead, though, in the search business. While very successful in the operating system, office software, and video game businesses, Microsoft has struggled in the search market, unable to generate significant search market share. Last year saw the drama of Microsoft courting Yahoo and subsequently committing to a half-hearted takeover attempt, which it hoped would lead to a combined competitor capable of challenging Google. Ultimately the deal unraveled and Microsoft was forced to go its own way, creating Kumo/Bing.
If the site succeeds it will likely be billed as brilliant move from Microsoft, but if it fails to do so it will merely join the failed pursuit of Yahoo and other highlights in Microsoft's long history of struggles in the search business.