The future of search, according to Microsoft, is outside of the white search bar. "Now the way for human beings to express their interest or needs goes way beyond a browser search typing in keywords," said Microsoft's Bing chief, Qi Lu. "You can use voice to have a conversation, you can use gestures to express yourself."
Moving forward, Bing will fit into all of Microsoft's products, providing information access from physical objects to expand the context of its search.
"The battle between us and Google is going to be over who can build understanding more quickly to serve people in a much more anticipatory way," says Microsoft's Adam Sohn. "Google's going to understand every entity on the planet, we're gonna understand every entity on the planet, but the question will be what do you do with that information?"
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Earlier this week during the Microsoft E3 Media Briefing, the next version of Bing voice search for Xbox 360 was shown off. We were able to see searches performed in both English and Spanish in order to find video content to watch. You are able to use your voice to search for genres (like comedies, horror, etc.) as well as for specific titles. Bing will then search across all video services, showing you the results that it finds in a grid. So if you look for Rango, it'll show you that you can rent it, but also that you can watch it for free as part of your Netflix subscription. Bing search will also allow you to search for YouTube content as well. This will all come as part of the fall 2012 dashboard update, supporting six languages in the US, and hitting dozens of other countries as well.
Microsoft also announced a significant number of related content partnerships, bringing most major services to the Xbox platform this week or by early 2012. On Dec. 6, Starting Dec. 6, a free Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone will let also let users find, learn more about and control content from popular entertainment services on Xbox LIVE.
Shortly after midnight on Sunday night, Microsoft said that the "Bing on Xbox" update would arrive on U.S. consoles beginning "tomorrow," and roll out to U.S. console owners over the coming weeks. Those without a Kinect peripheral will be able to search using Bing text search.
The voice search capability, first revealed in June, will work with both the Xbox Live Marketplace, Zune Video, and selected content partners. On Dec. 6, presumably the date of the update, Microsoft plans to add content from new entertainment partners, including apps, from EPIX, ESPN, Hulu Plus, Netflix, and MSNBC's Today.
Microsoft's vision for the Xbox platform, including voice search via Kinect, probably was more significant six months ago before Apple's Siri began dominating headlines with its ability to naturally search and interact with the user and a variety of apps. Nevertheless, it allows users to interact with a growing sea of content as simply as possible.
What's not new: The Xbox 360 is likely getting a Fall update that contains significant graphical updates and a few new features, like enchanted Kinect motion and voice navigation, Bing integration, and, ultimately, live television streaming.
What is new: A freshly leaked video that shows just how some of the different components of the new Xbox interface are shaping up.
An unknown source has leaked a full video that shows off a lot of the simple menu navigation and new user interface elements allegedly arriving on November 15 as a part of Microsft's fall Xbox 360 dashboard update. What's missing, however, are all the juicy bits: A preview of the voice-activated search, for example, or any kind of mention of an integrated live TV service or promised social connectivity, like the ability to fire off news of one's achievements to a connected Facebook account.
Microsoft showed off the future of the living room on Wednesday, and it appears to be a combination of Bing, Kinect, and the Mediaroom IPTV technology that forms the foundation of the Xbox.
Oh, and it seems to be taking place first overseas.
In a video embedded below, Microsoft's Marc Whitten, corporate vice president of Xbox Live (identified as a corporate vice president of ISS Experiences) showed off short clips of how the living room, as exemplified by the Xbox 360 and Kinect, continued to evolve. The demonstration placed a premium on natural user interfaces, identified by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates as one of the most significant advances in personal computing.
"Our goal is really, really simple," Whitten says in the video. "It's about how we make this effortless, intuitive and delightful. And that starts by making the technology fade out of the way, getting it all into the background."
According to All Things D's Liz Gannes, there are a few pain points over which the two companies are currently chatting. But, if successfully negotiated, Microsoft could ultimately land the keys to the real-time kingdom: long-term access to the real-time updates provided by both Facebook and Twitter, which would accompany the site's standard search results.
The two companies have six extra months to hammer out the details—Twitter signed real-time search contracts with Google and Microsoft in the fall of 2009, but Microsoft got a slightly longer timeframe than its big competition. Twitter is allegedly asking for an increased licensing fee for use of its real-time information: $30 million, or double the cost of the company's original contract with Microsoft.
At this week's BlackBerry World trade show, everyone expected the top headliner to be the company's just-released PlayBook tablet and its new software offerings. As it turned out, the gadget ended up taking second spot to a surprise guest: Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer.
Ballmer came out during RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis' keynote yesterday morning to announce a partnership that would bring Microsoft's Bing search engine to BlackBerries. Search is a big deal in mobile devices, so it's fitting that a heavy hitter from Microsoft came to give its blessing, but many took the appearance of the CEO as a clear sign of bigger things to come.
Does RIM know what it's in for, though? There's considerable doubt over whether the company's strategy and platforms can be successful over the next couple of years. If they're not, Microsoft could end up owning RIM.
"Will Microsoft buy RIM? That is a possibility and a fast track for Microsoft to gain a foothold in the mobile hardware business," says Harry Wang, director of mobile research at Parks Associates. "RIM's market capitalization is only $25 billion and Microsoft has $48 billion in cash. If RIM's value drops to $15 billion, it will become an attractive target for Microsoft. Maybe Steve Ballmer was planting that seed during his keynote appearance at Blackberry World."
Microsoft knows the importance of the mobile audience, even when it means taking advantage of a competitor's mobile platform—in this case, Apple's. Since late 2009, iPhone users have been able to download a Bing app that offers voice search, local shopping, scrolling image search, maps and directions. Now iPad owners get a Bing app that adds a new trends feature, which lets them explore the trending search topics of the week.
The new app, which is available in the iTunes App Store starting today, sports a homepage featuring the trademark (and often stunning) Bing photo of the day, along with tiles showing local weather, news, maps, movies, and trends. The interface makes a lot of use of the swipe touch gesture, especially in image search. A dropdown menu offers all these choices plus Images, Videos, Shopping and History—that is, your search history, not the school topic.
Trends shows tiled images for the week's major current events. It can almost be thought of as a lightweight replacement for an app like The Daily or Flipboard. Touching one of its images opens a search page showing news and images about the topic, like MLB Opening Day. Some topics get a slicker treatment rather than just a Bing search results page: touching through an entry about "30 Rock's" Tina Fey labled "Ms. Bossypants" displayed a grid of stories that somewhat resembled the New York Times' Web site layout. After reading a result page, you can swipe left-to-right to get back to the trends page.
As the devastating images of the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in Japan come in via cable news, newspapers, blogs, and homemade videos, tech giants like Google, Apple, Twitter, and more are donating funds and using the power of tech to help those in need.
In the wake of the earthquake, Google set up its Person Finder Web site to help people locate the missing or post data on those who had been found. In a Saturday blog post, Google Japan's Ken Miura said his team started working on Google's Crisis Response page within minutes of the quake.
Miura was in Tokyo, about 250 miles away from where the first quake hit, but the Google Japan office – located on the 26th floor – "started shaking slowly," he wrote.
"Although alerts from the building urged us to evacuate via the emergency stairs, I couldn't help but stay and search for information about the earthquake's epicenter and scale," he wrote. Miura said he was a university student when the Kobe earthquake hit 16 years ago and he recalled "the immediate desire for information."
With that in mind, the team launched Person Finder in Japan within an hour of the earthquake, pulled together public information from local governments about affected areas, and posted tsunami warnings on the Google homepage.
Miura also said Google will donate $250,000 to Japanese relief agencies.
Today Google unveiled an appetizing new search option for cooks and wannabe chefs: Recipe View.
The new search option will be a choice in the left rail that appears after entering a Google search. You can search for recipes by entering the name of a dish or food type, an ingredient, or just an occasion, such as Cinco de Mayo. The results can be further filtered by preparation time, ingredients, or calories. Result recipes also sport star ratings and user reviews, so you can see which ones have been hits.
The feature is more than a taste-bud pleaser, though. In order to implement it, Google engineers made use of rich snippet data. Google product mangaer Kavi Goel said in a blog post that the technology was introduced at the Searchology conference in 2009.
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