Microsoft takes a shot at what Apple should be doing.

Microsoft is apparently listening to my blog – they’ve gone and launched the search engine I said Apple should build a few months ago – a media and entertainment search engine! (Or is this their version of me saying “I’m a PC and Windows 7 was my idea?” 8).

Bing Entertainment (http://www.bing.com/entertainment) covers Music, Movies, TV, Games, and Video Games. It has a very attractive, browsable interface with a lot of rich media – for example, the music page shows photos, links to audio clips of the artist, as well as upcoming live performances. In spirit, I love what they are trying to do. They’ve even stolen a page from the wonderful (but defunct) service Lala which Apple acquired. You can play over 5 million songs in their entirety once for free. So if you ever wondered if you’d like Miles Davis’ Flamenco Sketches, now you can find out, for free, without engaging in any piracy: http://www.bing.com/music/songs/search?q=miles+davis&go=&form=DTPMUS.

Or at least, in principle you can. If you click on the play links, you get a “coming soon” message. Seriously, Microsoft? What was the hurry to launch, that you called this out in your press release (http://www.bing.com/community/blogs/search/archive/2010/06/23/a-new-entertainment-experience-for-bing.aspx) as one of the main features, and it doesn’t work? In practice, I find the implementation of Bing Entertainment to be disappointing (in contrast, Bing Travel is done very well). So far as I can tell there is no integration whatsoever between the search bar and the browse panels that are right next to each other. For example, a search for “Lady Gaga” produces the same search results as if I’d gone to Bing proper. It’s positioned as a media search product, but in reality it appears to be an entertainment portal with hard-coded content (and not very deep content), with a disconnected search box right next to it. The catalog appears to be very shallow. A search for the “Archer” TV show was disappointing – effectively the same search as on Bing “proper”. (BTW Archer is an absolutely hysterical parody of James Bond meets Beavis & Butthead meets “The office” – check it out if you haven’t seen it). In the entertainment space, there is a very limited catalog of entities that need to be recognized – how many TV shows are there, after all? Those should be recognized as special searches and treated accordingly. My search for “Archer” should have taken me to an Archer landing page. While it is positioned as a media search product, the search angle is virtually non-existent. The positioning of the product is spot-on, but the execution is lacking. Apple has a huge opportunity here – if Apple makes this product, the user experience is going to sing (perhaps even literally!).

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