It’s not long now. Microsoft’s new search engine has been widely expected to launch soon, and now it appears likely to happen within the next week or two. And might Bing be the new name?
The latest report is that Microsoft will demonstrate its new “Kumo” service during next week’s D: All Things Digital conference. As Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is one of the speakers, it makes a lot of sense he’ll want to show Microsoft’s latest entry in the search struggle against Google. Exactly when Ballmer is speaking hasn’t been posted, so if the demo comes out, expect it between May 26 and May 28.
Previously, there was a report that Kumo might debut at our own SMX Advanced search marketing conference, happening in Seattle, June 2 & 3. Since the show happens in Microsoft’s backyard — and features a keynote conversation between me and Microsoft’s Dr. Qi Lu, president of the company’s online service division, it also makes a lot of sense that Microsoft would want to do something about its new search engine there.
But how do you make a pop at two important conferences without repeating the same message? My guess is the difference between “demo” and “debut.”
Ballmer might show some of the features of the new Kumo service and potentially finally unveil Microsoft’s new brand. Then Lu might announce that the service is actually live for anyone to use, a week later. A formal launch like that also meshes with the report that there was an internal “countdown” clock for the launch at Microsoft that coincides with SMX Advanced.
Can’t wait for the demo? There’s been any number of previews of the service that’s being internally tested. See Kumo: Microsoft Tests Search Ideas With Its Own Employees, which is our own preview, for more.
How about that brand name? Last year at SMX Advanced, then Microsoft online services president Kevin Johnson acknowledged that Microsoft had a search brand problem, one that he decisively said would be fixed, even if that meant getting a new brand. Since then, four contenders for the new brand name have emerged:
Personally, I doubt Kumo will be the new name. After being used in testing, any “thunder” with that name is kind of gone. Plus, I’ve seen plenty of people on the web ridicule that name as a new brand choice. Sift seems potentially tied to a Microsoft mobile platform, plus Sift.com is actually owned by someone else. Hook.com also is owned by someone else. Bing.com resolves to a blank page, is registered to Microsoft and uses Microsoft’s name servers. So that’s what I’d guess it’s going to be.
(I can’t resist — Bing is, of course, also the last name of Friend’s character Chandler Bing. So maybe various Bing vertical services like image search or news search could get names like Joey, Monica, Ross, Rachel and Phoebe).
Of course, perhaps Microsoft will surprise people by going with the strongest online brand it has, MSN. Indeed, Microsoft’s search service was known as MSN Search for years before the Live Search change and still retains brand value. And perhaps Microsoft will really surprise everyone by using its strongest brand — Microsoft.
Can’t wait to play with Kumo — or perhaps the future Bing? Some people are already getting some of it, as Microsoft Kumo Features Being Tested In The Wild? covers.
And will Microsoft’s new launch immediately gain share against Google? Don’t expect that. None of the new features seen are major game changers. They’re more incremental improvements in line with Microsoft’s steady improvement of its home-brewed search engine over the past few years. The new brand certainly ought to help over the horrible Live Search name, and $100 million in marketing should also gain attention. But more than anything else, expect Microsoft execs — if they’re smart — to stress that this is another small step forward for them in the “long game” of search. As I wrote last month in How To Overhype Your Search Engine:
Microsoft faces its own hype challenge, of course. A brand change is expected later this year, along with a new look and features. Microsoft is definitely taking on Google, but after years of failure — and some past pronouncements that it would soon beat Google — the company now has to diligently control the hype and continue stressing the long game it is playing. Otherwise, when it fails to gain huge market share six months after the relaunch — which almost certainly be the case (unless it buys Yahoo’s traffic) — there will be disappointment over how it failed to “beat” Google once again rather than positive attention on any smaller by significant gains it might make.
Postscript by Barry Schwartz: It is official, Meet Bing, Microsoft’s New Search Engine.