Microsoft officially launched Bing (tagline “The Sound of Found”) this week, with a number of promotional spots intended to coincide with SMX Advanced to take advantage of the presence of so many search-industry wags who blog and the influential search marketers attend the conference.
Microsoft’s reportedly intending to spend over $100 million in advertising and marketing on Bing, and the launch party, dubbed “Bing presents In The Park 2009″, was virtually a return to the days of launch party excess predating the dot-bombs. The event, open to all attendees of SMX, was held in the Olympic Sculpture Park on the water front of Puget Sound and featured loud music, brief acts by weird performance artists, glowing Bing ice-cubes in free-flowing drinks, free nibbles, t-shirt giveaways, and a great view over the water.
I was privileged to have dinner just before the launch party with an old friend of mine who now does business development for Microsoft, and she later went on to Microsoft’s own internal Bing launch party over at the Fisher Pavilion at the Seattle Center, where news journalists had apparently also been invited for the outside portion of the event. By the time the launch party ended, and I walked back to the hotel along with Chris Sherman and Christine, there was a huge “search beam” light shooting up from the area of Seattle’s Space Needle into the dark night sky. I was completely mystified as to the significance, but it turns out that this was part of the “spectacular light show” that Microsoft engineered below the Space Needle in Seattle Center as part of their big launch.
The whole launch extravaganza was slightly marred, perhaps, by poor coordination/communication, since it probably would have been far more beneficial to have combined the Microsoft internal/journalist/press-conference with the SMX party, since the SMX attendees mostly had little idea as to what the light beam signified, and the journalists attending the light show sorta felt the launch hype fell short, since they didn’t get all the benefit of the party buzz and excitement, not to mention the free party food and favors. Never have a big launch without making certain the members of the press have access to drinks!!!
Part of the light show included a big, illuminated version of the Bing logo on the grass in front of the Fisher Pavillion.
The morning after, the SMX conference’s keynote session featured Microsoft’s President of Online Services, Dr. Qi Lu, interviewed by Danny Sullivan.
Lu answered Danny’s Bing questions with aplomb, though his responses were tempered by the knowledge that Microsoft’s past attempts at competitive thrusts against the Google domination of search market share have fallen short. Danny sported a t-shirt he’d apparently had custom-made for the occasion which exclaimed “Bada” across the front
— a reference to “Bada-BING!”, of course.
For many of us at the conference who kicked the tires on Bing, the new search engine didn’t seem all that extraordinary or innovative. With the blended search results and Dr. Lu’s emphasis of improved relevancy work, it was felt by many that the engine features are still somewhat immitative of other players, though it’s perhaps now caught up some and might compete better. I heard some state that Bing was what Live Search should’ve been. More interestingly, I heard an anecdotal mention on Twitter from someone who said that Bing seemed to rank their pages a whole lot better than Live Search.
My take on it is that any search engine and presentation improvements they may have added appear pretty small and incremental thus far. But, their aggressive push to fine-tune the branding with the new name/logo, paired with the advertising and marketing warchest might have a chance of increasing their market share.
We’ll probably be posting more here later from the conference on Christine’s presentation on “Keyword Research Artistry” and my presentation for “Beyond the Usual Link Building”.