Microsoft may have ushered in a paradigm shift Tuesday with the release of new versions of its search engine, Bing, and web browser, Edge — both now powered by artificial intelligence.
Available in preview on Bing.com, new offerings combine browsing and chat into a unified experience that makes both work better. When performing a search, for example, more relevant results are displayed, and for information such as sports scores, stock prices, and weather forecasts, results may appear without leaving the search page.
For more complex questions—such as “What can I substitute for eggs when baking a cake”—Bing can synthesize an answer from multiple online sources and present a summary response.
Searchers can also chat with Bing to further refine a search and use it to help create content, such as travel itineraries or quizzes for trivia night.
In addition to the facelift in the Edge browser, there is also an AI function for chatting and content creation. You can ask it to summarize long reports, pare them down to the essentials, or create a LinkedIn post from a few prompts.
“AI will fundamentally transform every software category, starting with the biggest category of all — search,” Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.
When you integrate AI with search, you can get the best of both worlds, said Bob O’Donnell, founder and principal analyst at Technalysis Research in Foster City, Calif., a technology market research and consulting firm.
“You can have the timeliness of a search index and the intelligence of natural language-based chat and summary tools,” O’Donnell told TechNewsWorld.
This video demos the new Bing Chat experience:
“What they’re doing is ultimately making the computer smarter,” he explained. “It enables them to deliver what they have to say, not necessarily what has been said.”
“It’s going to take some time for people to get used to it, but it’s dramatically better,” he said. “Its time savings and efficiency are off the charts.”
“I think we are in the midst of a paradigm shift,” he said.
Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, a consumer technology advisory firm in New York City, explained that bringing AI into Bing is just the tip of a larger Microsoft strategy.
“It’s not just about Bing, which is the low-hanging fruit for the integration,” Rubin told TechNewsWorld. “They want to integrate AI into a lot of their products — Office, Teams, Azure.”
“It may help Bing in its long-standing competition with Google, but it’s really much more than that,” he said. “They wouldn’t have made this level of investment if it was about making Bing more effective.”
bard of google
Microsoft’s action comes on the heels of Google announcing on Monday that it was bringing an AI conversational service called Bard to a group of “trusted testers.” Bard is based on Google’s natural language technology, LaMDA. Microsoft is using OpenAI technology in its offering.
Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a company blog that Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our larger language model. It pulls information from across the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses.
He explained that the Bard will initially be released with a lighter model version of the LaMDA. This much smaller model requires significantly less computing power, allowing us to scale to more users and allowing for more feedback.
He added that we will combine external feedback with our own internal testing to ensure that Bard’s responses meet a high standard in quality, safety and real-world information.
Pichai wrote that when people think of Google, they often think of quick factual answers, such as “How many keys are on a piano?” But increasingly, people are turning to Google for deeper insight and understanding — like, “Is piano or guitar easier to learn, and how much practice does each require?”
AI can be helpful in these moments, synthesizing insights for questions where there is no right answer, he continued. Soon, you’ll see AI-powered features in search that deliver complex information and multiple perspectives in easy-to-digest formats, so you can quickly understand the big picture and learn more from the web: whether it’s looking for additional perspectives doing, such as blogs from people who play both piano and guitar, or going in-depth on a related topic, such as the steps in getting started as a beginner.
Pichai said that these new AI features will start rolling out on Google Search soon.
leg up on leader
The question is, will “soon” be too late?
“Suddenly, the Microsoft search product is going to be much better than what Google has to offer,” said Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst at the Enderle Group, an advisory services firm in Bend, Ore.
“We’ll see how many people start making the switch,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld. “The switching cost between Bing and Google is non-existent. With switching costs so low, the question will be how many people switch to Bing and how bad will Google hurt?”
“It will take time for Google to catch up,” he said. “In the meantime, people will be establishing habit patterns with Bing, and if people are happy with Bing, why go back to Google?”
He added, “This appears to be a well-executed, dark strategy to battle Google, and Google, for whatever reason, was not adequately prepared.”
Incorporating AI into search helps Microsoft get a leg up on Google, maintained Ed Anderson, research vice president and analyst at Gartner, a research and advisory firm based in Stamford, Conn.
“Microsoft beat Google to the punch in terms of bringing AI-assisted search to Bing and Edge,” Anderson told TechNewsWorld. “How closely Google is toying with its search engine and browser remains to be seen.”
rewrite search rule
O’Donnell believes the new Bing search could make some headway against Google for eyeballs. “It’s the kind of thing that once you try to explore with this new type of engine, it becomes difficult to go back to the old one. It’s so much better,” he said.
“Microsoft is trying to rewrite the rules of the game,” Rubin said. “What is at risk is not only Google’s search leadership, but also its revenue model. Displacing search with an engine that can provide answers without redirecting you somewhere will require rethinking the entire search revenue model.
However, Greg Sterling, co-founder of Near Media, a news, comment and analysis website, pointed out that not only does Google have a wealth of experience in AI, but it also has extensive resources that it has built up for search over the years.
“What Microsoft revealed is impressive, but the usage that Google shows needs to be better,” Sterling told TechNewsWorld. “It can’t get a little better. It has to get better.”
“There is an opportunity here because of concerns about privacy on the user interface and the quality of search results and ads,” he said. “There is an opening, but Microsoft needs to take advantage of those variables. It remains to be seen whether they can do that.”