Microsoft shoots for the stars with Bing update

Microsoft's search engine taps some LA star power to launch new entertainment features, including streaming music, casual games, and TV episodes.

The event, hosted at Soho House on Sunset Boulevard, got off to a late start because many reporters were stuck in LA's notorious traffic.
The event, hosted at Soho House on Sunset Boulevard, got off to a late start thanks to LA traffic. Ina Fried/CNET

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif.--Microsoft is hosting a celebrity-laden event here on Tuesday, announcing a variety of new entertainment features it hopes will give Bing a little more star power.

In truly LA fashion, the event started late as reporters battled the southland traffic to get to the Soho House on Sunset Boulevard. However, Microsoft's blog post with the news posted promptly at the 6 p.m. starting time.

According to that, Microsoft is adding casual games, more TV content as well as Zune music and lyrics to the service . Each of several million songs can now be played once for free, with 30-second samples available thereafter. Songs can also be purchased from Amazon, iTunes or Zune.

The event, meanwhile, just kicked off at 6:30 p.m. PT, with Senior Vice President Yusuf Mehdi talking about Bing's history and showing a clip from the promotion Bing recently did with Stephen Colbert .

In the clip, Colbert notes that Bing is for real, adding that he knows that because he "Googled it." Mehdi said that despite a 47 percent gain in market share, Microsoft knows it still faces an uphill challenge.

"It isn't like people wake up and say dang, if only I had another search engine," he said. "We're definitely humbled about a lot of work we have to do."

Turning to entertainment, Mehdi said that there is a huge opportunity around entertainment and search, noting that there are some 1.5 billion entertainment-related queries per month.

Microsoft is hoping to get more of that traffic by including a lot of content within the search engine itself.

Bing results will feature more TV content as well as Zune music and lyrics to the service.
Bing results will feature more TV content as well as Zune music and lyrics to the service. Microsoft

For music, Microsoft is adding 5 million tracks in partnership with the labels. Although the songs can be played or bought form Bing, Mehdi stressed that Bing is not trying to compete with Microsoft's Zune music service.

"This is not a music service," he said. "This is about music discovery."

In gaming, Microsoft is adding both 100 casual games that can be played without registering or logging in, along with thousands of cheat codes for hardcore gamers. For TV, Microsoft says it now has 20,000 episodes, including content from Hulu, CBS, and Viacom.

Mehdi's talk has wrapped up, but a panel on entertainment and technology is set to begin at 8 p.m., followed by a red carpet after-party with music from hip-hop artist Drake.

In an interview after his talk, Mehdi acknowledged that the Hollywood thing is a bit of a stretch for the company, even if it does have a long history and games and music, through MSN, Zune, and Xbox.

"We're No. 2," Mehdi said. "We have to try harder. We have to think outside the box."

The event, he said, is part of that. "We'll see how this works out."

Disclosure: CNET is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.

 

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