Bing it on: Microsoft overhauls search, again

Bada Bing! Microsoft msft Thursday showed off a redesigned search site that it hopes will whack rivals Google goog and Yahoo yhoo.

Bing will lead to faster, better organized and more relevant results, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said. The service, which is available to a few test users now, will be widely released by Wednesday.

"We don't even need people to say it's always the better option (than Google). We need people to say it's often a better option," Ballmer said in an interview during the All Things D technology conference here.

Bing works a little differently than traditional search engines. For example, if you type "Haw" into a Bing search bar, an "auto suggest" feature may figure out that your intent is to research a vacation in Hawaii.

You can narrow the search by referring to "quick tabs" on the left side of the screen, for such things as hotels, tours, maps and flights. A Price Predictor feature can help you decide when to buy an airline ticket to get the best deals.

You can also search for images and video, with a "smart video preview" that lets you peek at 30-second clips (hula dancing, Don Ho) by scrolling over the video. You can play the video from the Bing results page, no matter where on the Web it is coming from.

Ballmer said Microsoft will spend aggressively to promote Bing. The amount is "big enough that I had to gulp when I approved the budget," he said on stage.

Advertising Age has pegged the campaign at as much as $100 million.

Tech analysts were split on whether Microsoft's efforts would work. "The brand change is the most important thing. It may help them build awareness," says Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land. "Some of the new features are nice, but there's nothing there that's a game changer."

But Kevin Lee, CEO of search engine advisory firm Didit, says, "If searchers get a good result, they may stick with Bing or include it as their second-try search engine."

Last year, Microsoft made an unsolicited $44.6 billion bid for Yahoo, an acquisition that would have bolstered its search offerings. Yahoo's then-CEO, company co-founder Jerry Yang, rebuffed the offer. He relinquished the CEO spot soon after.

Yahoo's current CEO, Carol Bartz, said earlier this week that she would consider a deal with Microsoft if it met her terms — including "big boatloads of money."

Ballmer said Thursday that the acquisition offer "is dead, not going to happen." But he said a partnership could be a possibility.

Even if Microsoft and Yahoo joined forces, they would be dwarfed by giant Google. In April, Google accounted for 64% of U.S. searches, researcher ComScore says. Yahoo accounted for 20%, and Microsoft accounted for 8%, ComScore says.

Baig reported from Carlsbad, Calif.; Acohido, from Seattle