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Microsoft gets out of the way of Bing

Microsoft's Bing "decision engine" distances itself from Microsoft's desktop brand, which at first glance seems like the right strategy.

Microsoft has officially named its next big attempt at squashing Google "Bing." CNET's Ina Fried covered Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's commentary on Bing at the D: All Things Digital conference on Thursday, but there's one important thing missing from the discussion and, indeed, from Bing itself:


As I took a spin through the Bing demo, I was surprised by Microsoft's newfound restraint. Bing is...Bing. It's not branded "Microsoft Live Bing" or "Bing by Microsoft." It's just Bing.

Microsoft has a great brand, but it also has a brand that carries a lot of baggage with it, baggage that its search service (or "decision engine," as it describes Bing) really doesn't need. One of the great failings of Microsoft's past search efforts is that Microsoft tried to tie them into the larger Microsoft experience which, it turned out, wasn't helpful. Microsoft's brand is tied up in the desktop. Search is all about the Web.

Not coincidentally, Microsoft's Xbox has been a huge success in large part because it's a distinct brand with a distinct experience, one that doesn't rely on affiliation with Microsoft's desktop hegemony. Microsoft appears to be learning, perhaps with the U.S. Justice Department as its tutor, that tying products together isn't always the best solution.

So...Bing. It's a good name, and looks to be a great experience, one that makes "search" more of a destination, rather than a launch pad, as highlighted in Ballmer's "D" interview with Walt Mossberg. It's a destination that packages pieces of the Web to present a coherent response to search terms, making Bing more of a portal and less of a search engine.

Yes, in true Microsoft fashion, the maps used are provided by Microsoft and there are ties to other Microsoft products. At first blush, however, this doesn't appear to be heavy-handed. It's certainly no different from how Google prefers its own services to those of competitors.

I gave up on Microsoft Live Search long ago. I just might give Bing an extended fling, however, as it seems content to stand or fall on its own merits, not Microsoft's brand.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.