Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bing was a Crooner

Have you heard?

Now you can make better decisions. With Bing, the new "decision engine" from Microsoft!

Ads for the new Google-competitor from Redmond actually suggest you can change your life with this wonderful Bing thing--avoid getting a Mohawk, for instance (I think that's what they were driving at)? Or learning to play guitar at the age of six or seven? Bing will help you decide.

How exactly does this astonishing new decision engine work? Maybe I am missing something, but I could swear the decision engine, having responded to my quest for an answer about "clean energy", gave me--and let's not get too excited waiting for the revelation here--a list of links with the words "clean energy" in them! And the top spot in the "sponsored" section was for the clean energy giant we all know as ExxonMobil.

I don't have a problem with ExxonMobil--somebody's got to sell me all that gasoline I use--but if I can have just a brief word with the guys over at Bing, I would like to tell them that they need to fire their ad agency.

I don't have a problem with Microsoft, either. They've managed to produce a suite of tools that somehow satisfies about a trillion people last time I checked and there's not a lot of smoke belching out of the smokestacks at Microsoft HQ either. So it isn't as if they don't create a pretty popular and a pretty green product out in the land of Gates.

But the ads for Bing are nothing less than insulting. Okay, MSFT wants to have a Google-killer. Good luck with that. At one point they thought MSN was going to kill the Internet (you can choose not to believe that, but it's a real-live data-point from the mid-nineties). Aside from a wonderful spin-off called MSNBC, I can't see where they created anything better than Hotmail with that gargantuan effort.

But back to my annoyance with Bing, and how the ads are insulting. What's with "decision engine"? That's not what it is. It would have to be far more sophisticated to approach that realm--something like an expert system (still a chimerical goal for visionary developers) that would somehow divine your intent and deliver wisdom.

It's like calling a car an airplane. Bing is a search engine--it's just like Google! The notion that we should be encouraged to "Bing and then decide" is worse than cute and silly. In my opinion, calling Bing a "decision engine" borders on misrepresentation and falsehood.

But then, Microsoft has always seemed to have a tin ear for marketing. That's a whole 'nother blog post.

For now, just remember that Bing was a Crooner popular back during World War Two. He was not a decision engine.