It’s been a big month for ‘decision engines’.
First we had the build-up and launch of Wolfram-Alpha as mentioned a few weeks ago and now we have the launch of Microsoft’s own decision engine called ‘Bing‘.
Bing went live last week, a couple of days early. The
earlier-than-planned-launch is a strong indication of the effort
Microsoft has put behind it. Let’s not forget how important Bing is to
Microsoft. The majority of Microsoft’s recent challenges to Google’s
search and online advertising dominance have failed to make an impact
on their market share. Bing is the successor to Microsoft’s Live
Search. But what’s different? And what exactly are ‘decision engines’,
a term so new that there isn’t a Wikipedia entry to define them yet?
Engines are being positioned as the evolution of search. Whereas search
engines ‘simply’ (and I use the word advisedly) return the closest
match to a given search term, decision engines move us closer towards
the ‘semantic web’ and artificial intelligence by using contextual
information, together with the results of previous user’s searches, to
provide more accurate and more helpful results. Well that’s the theory
But do either Wolfram Alpha or Bing live up to this?
Alpha has hit the 100 million query mark, but getting an answer to your
question is still quite hit and miss. It’s actually quite difficult to
think of a useful query that Wolfram Alpha has an answer for. Many
questions still get a “Wolfram Alpha isn’t sure what to do with your
Bing on the other hand might well be trying to position
itself as a ‘decision engine’ but it’s not as revolutionary as its
pre-launch billing. It’s more of an evolution of search, attempting to
improve on Google’s offering.
And there are some nice features:
the image search allows you to filter images by size, style, layout
etc. A neat feature. The video shortcuts allows you to play the video
by just rolling over the image thumbnail in the search. But Bing has been
criticised for delivering poorer results than Google. For a neat way of comparing
Google and Bing, Blackdog have created a split screen site to search both sites at the same time.
it be enough to make inroads into Google’s market share? Only time will
tell. But from first impressions it’s just not significantly different
or better than Google to shift consumer behaviour.
There is a danger that the term Decision Engine is being used by Microsoft in order to create some new news: as an attempt to be viewed as creating something new rather than just going head-to-head with Google. But that’s exactly what Microsoft is doing.
The Wolfram Alpha product may not be quite there yet, but it takes us much more into the area of
decision engines and its evolution will be much more interesting and important to watch.