Earlier this week, The New York Post reported that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) co-founder Sergey Brin was so scared of what Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) had created in Bing that he had personally created a skunkworks team to beat it.
Google's response? "We always have a team working on improving search. Our algorithm is constantly evolving," a spokesperson told the paper.
There are varying theories about why this so-called story broke, and why now. Some speculators say that Google placed the story as a PR stunt, a tactic designed to divert the eyes of federal regulators who have had their eyes on Google's vast and growing search market share.
I've been in the PR business, and a stunt of this sort wouldn't be unprecedented. But is speculating about it helpful? I can't see how. Let's talk about what we know: Bing isn't the only so-called "decision engine" available, and every one of them is a threat to Google.
Microsoft gets credit for coining the term "decision engine" with Bing, which it says relates to how its system helps users make better decisions, faster. The trick, as Mr. Softy describes it, is to not only retrieve good results but also present and organize them in a way that's actionable, in a way that answers direct questions.
Bing doesn't do this perfectly, of course. Neither does Google. For both companies and their search services, "decision engine" is more marketing-speak than product description.
But applied more broadly, the phrase "decision engine" accurately describes the movement toward richer indexes such as Wolfram|Alpha and IBM's (NYSE: IBM ) Watson, a computer-database combination that will soon make its JEOPARDY! debut. There's also Hunch.com, a new style of search engine that gets to know you before it presents you with results.
And this isn't a comprehensive list; more "decision engines" are coming. Brin may not be worried now, but he should be.
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