SMX Advanced: Microsoft’s Gurdeep Singh Pall Talks About Voice Search, Entities & More

smx-logo-128Day two of our SMX Advanced event is getting started with our second keynote event: a conversation with Microsoft’s Gurdeep Singh Pall.

He’s the VP for the Information Platform & Experience team at Microsoft, and is responsible for vision, product strategy and R&D for Bing. Search Engine Land’s founding editor, Danny Sullivan, is leading the conversation and we’re set to get started. So feel free to follow along below.

I’ll use “DS” for Danny and “GSP” for Gurdeep as I type.

We’re going to start with a short presentation from Gurdeep before the conversation part.

Bing is doing great, he says, with lots of partnerships and momentum.

Over the last decade, search has been about typing keywords into a box in your web browser. It’s been a fantastic decade for that. But soon that’s going to be similar to making phone calls with a black phone connected to a cord in your wall.

He’s showing a slide where Bing search is part of Windows, Office, Windows Phone, XBOX and MSN — not just the main Bing search site. He’s talking about “Bing as a platform” — you’ll find Bing fully available in all of these platforms.

Three areas the Bing information platform covers:

1.) NUI – sight, sound, touch and multimodal

2.) Intelligent services – relevance, recognition, recommendations and understanding. If you like X, you might like Y, too.

3.) World’s knowledge – people, places, things and action. This is about the relationship between things.


Bing is about enabling the user search scenarios that happen when those three come together: conversational interfaces for mobile devices, recommendations for music and movies, etc. “I truly believe that the keyboard and mouse will be things of the past,” he says. “We are entering into a new era. The assets that we’ve built with Bing are applicable across all of this.”

And now we’re onto the Q&A.

DS: Let’s talk about more than Bing just as a website. The example I think of first is on the XBOX.

GSP: Tells a story about how some young kids have tried to talk to their microwave by saying “XBOX, Bing…” because that’s what they’re used to.

DS: We just heard about Bing becoming the default search on Apple’s Siri platform. (Here’s our story.)

GSP: Very excited about this partnership. It speaks to how far Bing has come. We’ve had APIs which are related to accessing Bing news, Bing images, Bing web search. We have the partnership with Facebook, as you know.

This partnership with Apple takes Bing into scenarios which aren’t just typical searches.

DS: Will people know it’s Bing?

GSP: Yes, there will be branding so people know they’re getting Bing results?

DS: Will Microsoft do something like Siri or Google Now?

GSP: I can’t comment on that.

DS: asks about voice search

GSP: The more people use their voice to search, the more we’re learning. People talk naturally when they do voice search. It’s not like the search box where you type short keywords. He also talks about hand gestures that people make when they talk — multimodal input is important. How your pupils are dilated, how your hands are moving are very important signals.

DS: So if I scream at my XBOX, it’ll know?

GSP: Yes.

DS: follow-up question about how people search with voice vs. desktop

GSP: The challenge of learning voice search is that we have to retrain systems. You can carry over into multiple responses — a dialog with the search engine. It’s an ongoing interaction. People will start to expect dialog and interaction with their search engine when doing voice search.

DS: What do you see about how people do voice search?

GSP: The user is always right. We don’t look at how people do voice search and say “this is crazy.”

DS: Do you find that searchers on XBOX are younger?

GSP: Yes. Tells funny story about how his son found a bug in XBOX search and “it was fixed” right away because he’s my son.

(Audience laughs)

DS: Talks about how Siri is very conversational. Do people on XBOX talk to Bing like it’s a person?

GSP: There’s a lot of research in this area. Do you want the search to respond like a friend? Or like Jeeves the butler? When the dust settles, I think there will be multiple models. You give the user a choice and set expectations.

DS: So we could have “nice Bing” or “snarky Bing” or “submissive Bing” in the future?

GSP: I think that’s possible.

DS: Bing’s had a lot of news lately. What do you think is the biggest?

GSP: What I’m most excited is what’s coming up. Some of the stuff we’re working on is very, very exciting. This idea of moving away from just the search box is going to become real.

DS: Talks about recent comScore search share numbers. Are you guys happy with the adoption growth? How can you drive more?

GSP: To see it inch up like it has, has been very gratifying. It’s very hard to make gains. Where we are is good and the team is super energized. It gives us the opportunity to use these new assets that we’ve been talking about.

DS: asks question about how to get people to change their Google habit.

GSP: I think it’s about educating people about what Bing has become. Getting them to experience it, to see the beautiful experience. When that happens, people go “a ha” and they pick up new habits.

The second thing is to make sure that Bing is available where new things are happening — like our partnerships with Apple and Facebook.

(I missed a question about some Windows panoramic experience.)

DS: Asks how to deliver a consistent experience for people who don’t update to the latest operating system?

GSP: We want to fit in to whatever the interaction model is.

DS: asks a couple questions about XBOX 1, but Gurdeep is unable to answer about future plans, etc.

And now time for audience Q&A. I don’t know who’s asking, so I’ll just use “Q” to indicate someone is talking from the audience.

Q: asks about the evolution of ads

GSP: Talks about how ads show up on the right in a highly contextual manner. As search interface changes, it creates an opportunity to surface ads in a new way. We’re not trying to hurry into that world – we want to do it very cautiously.

We will see that the approach to ads will get more sophisticated.

Q: about integrated Office

GSP: it’s been a year and a half since I left the Office team, so hard to answer that

Q: with search scrolling horizontally in Windows 8, should websites scroll that way instead of up and down

GSP: I think it’s more natural to users to scroll that way.

Q: as Bing rolls out across multiple platforms, is there advice that website owners should know to be ready?

GSP: We’re not ready yet to give advice on that.

Q: What have you learned about social media integration with Bing, and what do expect in the future?

GSP: I’m not the best person to answer that, but I think you’ll continue to see us experiment with this. Bringing social signals into search is a hard problem – it takes a lot to get it right. We continue to believe it’s important.

Q: with move to voice search, do we need to change how we target keywords?

GSP: You can specify full-form questions and phrases, but there’s so much going on, that you should be okay even if you don’t. The one thing I’d suggest websites do is use The structured data is very important.

DS: We seem to be on the cusp of finding entities, not just finding web pages.

GSP: Absolutely. Humans understand blue links, but computers don’t. But entities help make sense of that. The way you do that is with structured data. There’s a big shift from words and information to understanding entities.

DS: final question about favorite thing Bing is doing

GSP: Mentions entities again. Delivering “a ha” moments for searchers.

And with that, we are all finished! Thanks for reading along.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Live Blogging | Microsoft: Bing | Microsoft: Bing SEO | Microsoft: Xbox | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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