The Bing operating system: Microsoft bets on deep search integration to beat Google

A massive transformation of search as a product is playing out in very profound ways," says Microsoft's Bing chief, Qi Lu. Speaking at TechForum last week, the unassuming president of Microsoft's search efforts revealed a new approach Redmond is betting on to compete against Google. "As we build our product, we're converting the Bing technology stack into an information platform," says Lu. This new platform can then be embedded into any devices and services, pushing Bing directly into Microsoft's products.
This integration is a core part of the way Microsoft sees Bing's future at the company. "Bing as a platform presents the universal platform," says Lu. But how does Microsoft make inroads in a world that's dominated by Google search? Lu says access to physical objects, something you wear on your wrist or glasses, and other traditional devices will help Bing use computational intelligence to provide context and data outside of basic search. "Now the way for human beings to express their interest or needs goes way beyond a browser search typing in keywords," he believes. "You can use voice to have a conversation, you can use gestures to express yourself."

This extension and change in user habits has Bing thinking it might be able to catch up. "The battle between us and Google is going to be over who can build understanding more quickly to serve people in a much more anticipatory way," says Microsoft's Adam Sohn. Google has Google Now, designed to provide information automatically when you need it, but Sohn thinks that's only the beginning. "What becomes really interesting is when these things will act on your behalf," he argues. "Google's going to understand every entity on the planet, we're gonna understand every entity on the planet, but the question will be what do you do with that information?"
"We believe typing in a search box is not going to be the model going forward," says Sohn. The different usage patterns and new ways to access information, be it on phone or tablet, are forcing users to expect more from Office, Windows, and Xbox to get personal and work-related activities done. "In some ways search becomes just one application on this platform," explains Sohn. "It really becomes one way this stuff is consumed."
Bing's integration with Microsoft products has already started with Windows 8 and Windows Phone. Both include Bing functionality, whether it's through apps or a default search experience. An upcoming update to Windows 8, codenamed Windows Blue, will include even tighter Bing integration as part of the Search Charm. "I think there's a ton of opportunity for us, especially in the Windows 8 UX framework, both in main Windows and even in Office to do a lot of interesting innovation," says Sohn, refusing to comment on future specifics.

By Tom Warren
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