Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi pooh-poohs Google Instant

The senior VP, who oversees Bing, says that Instant misses the mark for what a search engine should do

A top Microsoft official dismissed as conceptually misguided the new Instant feature that lets Google's search engine refresh search results on the fly while people type queries.

Yusuf Mehdi, who as senior vice president of Microsoft's Online Audience Business oversees the Bing search engine, said that Google Instant is technologically "impressive" but misses the mark in what search engines should do.

In his view, Google Instant increases the number of results delivered to users, instead of helping them zero in on the information they're looking for to accomplish the task at hand, he said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference on Wednesday.

"Both companies are focused on the notion of improving [search] performance for people. Where we're different is that for us it's about speed to task completion. It's about getting what you want accomplished, it's not about getting a lot more results," said Mehdi, who answered questions from TechCrunch co-editor Erick Schonfeld and from audience members. The conference is being webcast.

Announced earlier this month, Instant is intended to speed up the process through which people compose queries and choose results and ads to click on.

Google describes Instant as "search before you type" because it tries to predict what people want to search for by combining query suggestions with the real-time refreshing of sets of results and ads.

Mehdi said Microsoft has decided to focus its efforts to assist search users through visual innovations in the engine's user interface and by responding to queries, as much as possible, with the desired data and information right on the results page.

Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mehdi also showed Bing's upcoming home page, viewed with the company's latest browser IE 9, streaming a full-screen video of whales swimming in the ocean, something made possible by the browser's use of HTML 5 and other new technologies. He also showed the ability for people to zoom deeply into a Bing full-screen background image of Mount Rushmore.

It's not clear why Microsoft would want to engage search users with streaming video or the ability to zoom into a background picture, if speed is of such importance in search.

However, Microsoft is far from alone in this. Recently, Google also displayed its HTML 5 prowess with a Pac-Man game that people could play at its main search page.

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Juan Carlos Perez

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