So, this one’s fresh off the Web’s water-cooler that is Twitter. Bing and Twitter did a Twitter conversation that hints at a renewed search deal between the two, or at least some announcement around the same.
(Read from bottom up to the top)
While this is also a dig at Google who lost the search deal, it could just pave way for a fresh announcement around Bing-Twitter deal. While Bing has made good strides in several search verticals like travel, it struck a fine deal with Twitter two years ago that allows it to use Twitter data for its real time search queries. Twitter’s search, for all it’s worth, is far from being useful allowing searching only past few tweets. Bing had earlier also integrated social information from Facebook within the search results making them more relevant.
While this conversation was on, Stefan Weitz, Director of Bing at Microsoft added fuel to the fire by posting a message to Jessica Verrili who handles Business & Corporate Development at Twitter.
While Twitter and Bing do the harmless flirting in the preview, I’ll grab some popcorn and wait for the show reel.
It is hard to go online today without touching one or more Google products or services. If it is not search, it may be email, YouTube, Blogger, Picasa, Docs, or Calendar. Google has truly blanketed us with their web-based app offerings. Heck, even the Google Doodle is a conversation topic!
In this editorial, I shall discuss how you can kick the Google habit, what I am using now as alternatives and why you probably won’t be able to replace certain Google products today. Ready to move away from Google? First, some background.
Some of the reasons I personally decided to look for alternatives:
- Google became a part of virtually everything I did online. I used GMail, Google Reader, Google Finance, Blogger, Picasa, Picasa Web, Google Docs, Google Search, Google Calendar and Google Maps. I felt uncomfortable putting such a large portion of my online life in Google’s hands.
- Google morphed from the cool little startup building fun stuff for consumers, to a dominant public company whose revenues essentially came from just one product. That’s the key most (96%) of its revenues (and profits) came from search advertising. In other words, it needed other ways to make money. The most obvious way to do so would be to extend the arm of advertising, their main revenue-generating product, into other products. I realized I was the merchandise.
- Google seemed to get Apple and Facebook envy. Apple was growing rapidly across all their product lines and at very high profit margins, and Facebook was taking eyeballs and key talent away from Google. This led to some bad attempts to mock Apple and Facebook publicly, which of course delighted the Google developer and enthusiast community but came off as being negative to me. If you make a great product, you don’t need a negative campaign.
- Aside from philosophy, some of the competing products started becoming better, and Google’s products started getting worse (more on that within my descriptions) prompting me to start Project Un-Google which was an effort to use fewer and fewer Google products, hopefully reaching a point where I did not depend on any Google product at all.
Whether it is for philosophy, or hedging your web app bets, it is good to know there is life outside Google when it comes to products and services online and offline. There is usually a strong resistance to change, especially if you have a long history with a product. There is a high cost for transferring the old stuff, and learning your way around a new product/service. However, these challenges are not insurmountable, and I hope you take a look at some or all of the products I list here as an alternative to Google. If you have ideas of other products I may not have mentioned, please let me know!
Popular Google products
Here are some of the Google products/services I will be comparing to competition:
I realize Google has many more products, appsand services, but I did not look at products like Book Search which are very niche. My attempt here is to look at the commonly used products and services only.
The Bing Webmaster team has announced the integration of Yahoo traffic data into Bing Webmaster Tools reports. Bing Webmaster Tools will now be showing integrated data from Yahoo within certain areas and reports. At this time the data will be combined, not selectable. The transition happens in August, although September will be the first full month of combined data.
Bing Webmaster Tools help site owners to drive more visitors to their site using Bing data on search queries, crawling, and search traffic. They can see their site as Bing does, optimize for search, share site information with Bing, and view a comprehensive list of sites that are linking to their site.
In Bing Webmaster Tools, the Traffic summary report and Page Traffic reports will be impacted, although no actual rankings will be affected by the combining of data within Bing webmaster Tools. On these pages, both Bing and Yahoo! logos will appear above the graphs.
- Impressions will go up based on combined data numbers across both search engines
- Clicks will go up based on combined data numbers
- Click Through Rates (CTR) as appropriate for above (change only due to the mathematics involved in the first two items)
Microsoft has unwrapped a new Bing app that goes by the clever and self-explanatory name of “We’re In“. The app allows a user to send out invitations to selected friends for an event. An expiration date for each invitation can be toggled in order to turn off location sharing at a predefined time. Once launched, the app allows you to select a list of people to invite to your event along with details, such as location, time or other personal notes.
Once a user accepts the invitation and sends a reply, their location is visible to you and vice-versa. This works similar to how Google Latitude does, displaying all your friends on a map relative to your location. Each user can control their invitation expiration and can view other friends in the group. This makes for a much easier way to manage who can see where you are and when they can see where you are.
The unofficial motto behind Windows Phone is “get in, get out, get back to life’. This app is a perfect example of the route that Microsoft has taken with designing Windows Phone and the services they provide to users. They reduce the amount of required interactions in order to make getting information extremely fast and extremely simple. The newest update to Windows Phone, dubbed Mango, brings along some refreshing changes that enhance the user experience and ultimately aligns Windows Phone with it’s competitors.
Unfortunately the We’re In app is only available to users in the United States (due to “location data regulations”, as per the Bing Team) and it is not available for all current devices. In the mean time, users who are looking for a cross-platform and completely free service that has very similar functionality should check out Glympse.
Remember the Bill Gates-Seinfeld ads that were aired before the popular I’m a PC’ campaign by Microsoft? The ads, with no product mention or any geeky conversation ended with the line: The future is delicious’.
I love the line. Yes, I do. Concept cars, technology vision videos, and even the scenarios in science fiction movies have been reasons of many of orgasms I have had. Anyway, do you notice a pattern in all these desires? The keywords are: concept, vision, and fiction. Well, that hurts. However, Microsoft’s peek into the future is built around current products and technologies and looks a certain reality in few months.
In the past, the focus for living room has been entertainment and electronic appliances like home-theatre systems and entertainment/gaming consoles like Xbox. The time has now changed and along with consumer interests the industry has also seen a transformation in terms of technologies and offerings. Traditional broadcast and cable TV have made way for time-shifted and on-demand TV via DVRs and other devices. DVD rentals have been replaced by on-demand movie delivery via services such as Netflix and Hulu. Watching videos on sites like YouTube almost equals the time spent watching TV series.
Xbox presents a wide array of entertainment options games, movies, music, TV shows, sports programming, services like Netflix and Hulu, and programming and on-demand options available through cable and satellite providers. By converging the Xbox’s catalogue with Bing’s deep search expertise, Microsoft Tellme’s voice technology, and the magic of Kinect, Microsoft hopes to give the consumers the power of simplicity, discovery, and personal choice in your living rooms with the people you care about.
Watch this video by Microsoft that is inspired by their philosophy in this space: All the entertainment you want, with the people you care about, made easy. Delicious indeed!
As part of the Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance, from August 3, Yahoo! search results in Europe will be powered by Bing. Yahoo! will be migrating organic search results for its European properties to the Bing search index.
Organic (also referred to as algorithmic) search results are the non-paid listings found on the main body of the Yahoo! search page. This transition will happen for Yahoo UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. At this time, Yahoo! is not transitioning paid search results to Microsoft Advertising adCenter and companies can continue using their Yahoo! Search Marketing accounts.
In August 2010, a similar transition happened for Yahoo.com. After the transition, there were no changes in the branding or search experience, except a Powered by BingTM‘ text in the footer of the search page.
If you are a webmaster and organic search results bring traffic to your site, you are advised to compare your organic search rankings on Yahoo! Search and Bing for the keywords that drive your business and check for any potential impact to your website traffic. You might also want to check if you need to modify your paid search campaigns. Also, if you are not using the Bing webmaster tools, it is a good idea to do that now to ensure your site is prominently listed in both Yahoo! and Bing organic search results.
Today, Microsoft launched a new state-of-the-art research & development facility in Bangalore, India. Dr Qi Lu, President, Online Services Division, Microsoft inaugurated Vigyan, the swank new 154,000 sq. ft. facility is situated in the heart of the city. Vigyan in Hindi language means Science’.
Vigyan is now home to researchers from Microsoft Research India and Microsoft India Development Center (MSIDC) team that works on Microsoft adCenter. Microsoft IDC’s first centre was set up in Hyderabad in 1998. The Hyderabad campus along with the Beijing one are Microsoft’s biggest R&D facilities outside of the United States. At MSIDC, Hyderabad, Microsoft Research India was established in 2005. Dr. P Anandan, Managing Director, Microsoft Research India was also present at the inauguration.
The decision to set up our second R&D centre in Bangalore reinforces Microsoft’s commitment towards India. – Dr. Qi Lu
After the search alliance between Bing and Yahoo last year, Microsoft extended engineering efforts in Bangalore. Also, several Yahoo employees moved to Microsoft as part of the alliance. Microsoft has several facilities in Bangalore already that house Microsoft Global Training Support Center (GTSC), Microsoft Research India, and different teams from Microsoft’s business groups like Sales & Marketing Support Group (SMSG) and Developer & Platfrom Evangelism (DPE).
Photos Courtesy: Microsoft India Development Center
While one division at Microsoft aspires to rival Apple iPad in more ways than one, another division has always adopted the iOS platform progressively. The pragmatism of Bing team has had them release a slick Bing for iPhone app in the past, and a Bing for iPad app in April 2011 as the first official iPad app from Microsoft. The app has been very well received and in the first three months, it has had more than 5,000 ratings in the App Store and an average score of 4.7 stars (out of five stars).
The Bing for iPad app goes beyond the traditional search experience and offers a unique and visually rich way to search the Web. It allows you to quickly browse news, movies, Bing homepage images, local business listings and much more. The v1.1 of the app introduces a new feature called Lasso. Designed for the touch-friendly iPad, Lasso is a new way to search and copy/paste with the touch of a finger. You can simply press the Lasso icon in the upper right of the app and circle any word or phrase. Lasso will then create a Bing search and return search results based on the word or phrase selected.
Lasso moves Bing beyond the search box and streamlines the process of conducting online searches on the touch-screen device. It simplifies the painful process of copying and pasting pieces of text from a webpage while reading something to a search box to search the Web for that text string. Although this feature is only available in Bing for iPad at the moment, the Bing team could take it further to different devices or platforms.
Also, apart from several quality and performance improvements, the latest release also includes an improved movie experience that lets you view multiple showtime days and theatres, and gives you the ability to swipe through the last six Bing homepage images.
You can view a video showing the Lasso tool in action and download the updated app in the App Store.
At their E3 keynote, Microsoft introduced a major update to the Xbox 360 dashboard. The update includes a new interface and deeper Kinect integration.
The dashboard now looks a lot more like Zune with tiles and navigation categories at the top. The Metro UI is now part of Windows 8 (tablet), Windows Phone 7 and the Xbox. The live tiles are updated with relevant information.
Microsoft’ s decision engine is slowly becoming an integral part of the company’s product portfolio. Bing is an important feature in Windows phone 7 and today Microsoft integrated Bing’s search capabilities in Xbox 360. The Bing interface on the Xbox is elegant and coupled with voice control, searching your catalog and the Internet looks fun.
With Bing, a user can search within apps like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, ESPN and Xbox LIVE Marketplace to find relevant entertainment content.
With Kinect integration, Microsoft has now enabled voice control throughout the Xbox. Voice commands can be used with Bing to search within apps for content.
Live TV and YouTube
Microsoft has promised subscription based TV services starting this fall in the US. Currently, Microsoft has partnered with Sky TV in the UK, FoxTel in Australia and Canal+ in France for live television in the respective countries. In addition to subscription based local TV content, Microsoft will be streaming martial fights under Ultimate Fighting Championship and feature some exclusive UFC videos.
Microsoft has been able to strike a deal with Google to bring YouTube to the Xbox 360. This allows users to access the huge repertoire of videos on the website using voice control in their living room. Looks like Google just lost a reason to sell Google TVs.
As spotted by Tom Warren, the dashboard update has an apps section with Marketplace. The apps are the currently available third party services integrated in Xbox. As the people at This Is My Next noticed, live TV has a tile named My DVR.
Images courtesy This Is My Next and Microsoft PR
Google’s executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt revealed that Google’s offer to partner with the social networking giant, Facebook ,was rejected despite several tries. Schmidt spoke at the D9 conference that if the deal was on, Google search could have been improvised for better searching experience with access to Facebook’s data.
Google’s search could be improved with access to Facebook’s data about Web surfers’ friends and acquaintances,but didn’t go into detail which deal he was referring to.
We tried very hard to partner with Facebook. They were unwilling to do the deal,he said.
As Microsoft Bing and Facebook had joined hands earlier, Google had expected that Facebook would effortlessly accept the deal, but in the end, Google failed to achieve the desired result.
Schmidt also noted that Google has renewed a partnership with Apple in which Google provides map technology featured in the iPhone.