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Goodbye Microsoft Live Search, Hello Bing

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer introduced the company's new Google search competitor and its new name -- Bing -- Thursday at the D: All Things Digital Conference in Carlsbad, Calif.

However, despite a glitzy demo, and the rebranding, it remains to be seen whether Bing will go "ka-ching" for Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), and whether both the name and the technology resonate with users. The company's search engine to date has been called Live Search, while Bing, the new search engine, was previously codenamed Kumo.

That all changes on June 3, when Bing.com goes live around the world and the Live Search brand goes away.

Rumors that Microsoft was ready to take the wraps off its rejiggered search strategy have been swirling in the blogosphere for weeks. That was when most observers still expected the codename Kumo, which means "cloud" or "spider" in Japanese, would be the final name.

"We needed a name that says this is all about search," Ballmer said during an onstage question-and-answer session at the D conference. "We need to build brand equity in addition to technology equity."

Ballmer also assured the audience that reported ownership problems with the name -- Bing -- have successfully been dealt with.

Names aside, however, the big question is will it work?

"The proof's in the pudding. If the buzz got out that Microsoft had a good search experience, who knows, they could be contenders," Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies, told InternetNews.com.

Taking Bing for a ride

That's a race that's a little hard to call so far, though. The only people with any real long-term experience with Bing thus far have been Microsoft employees -- who have been testing Bing internally for several months -- and a handful of technology analysts.

Two analysts who had the opportunity to at least kick the tires on Bing before the launch both said they were favorably impressed with their own initial tests.

"Microsoft is finally giving its search [technology] a chance to succeed," Matt Rosoff, research vice president for consumer products and services at Directions on Microsoft, told InternetNews.com. He's been testing Bing for about a month.

"[Live Search] results were not as accurate as Google's but [with Bing] I've been able to find what I'm looking for on the first search," Rosoff added.

Sue Feldman, vice president of search and discovery technologies at IDC, had a similar experience. "Pretty much every one of the top 10 to 20 results were very relevant," she told InternetNews.com.

Microsoft executives have, for a couple of years, highlighted shortcomings in existing search engines, citing analysis that as many as 30 percent of searches are abandoned because they do not find what users are looking for.

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