Bing Maps?

Please note, the following text is an editorial comment. If you’re looking for information about Bing Maps, see http://www.discoverbing.com

 

Today Microsoft announces another name for Virtual Earth – Bing Maps. When they previously changed the name of Virtual Earth to Live Search Maps, I understood their intention of aligning their consumer mapping application (Virtual Earth) with the other consumer applications in the Microsoft Live Search family. However I personally disliked the name Live Search Maps; it was too long and unfriendly. So I’ve always continued to refer to the service as Virtual Earth (as did many other people).

This time Microsoft is attempting a much larger rebranding strategy around a new search platform Bing.com. Bing is an attempt to gain some ground on Google in the search arena. While Bing is a hip name, the rebranding does make me wonder what Microsoft is thinking. I’m sure a large part of the change is hope that Bing will become a household verb like Google. Somewhere a Microsoft ad agency is dreaming about people asking one another, “did you Bing it? What is it? Where is it?”

Microsoft is throwing g a lot of money ($80 to $100 million) at this rebranding campaign to get consumers to question whether Internet searching is giving them what they want. Unless they’ve got some fantastic features to show consumers an alternate reality that is markedly better, Bing will probably not work. Google achieved search dominance because they had a superior product. To supplant them in the search arena, Bing must be better, not just fancier. A fancy updated user interface with web site previews inside pop-up windows and a multi-million dollar marketing campaign did not help Ask.com. So what kind of bling does Bing have that is going to make me switch?

As an aside, while the name Bing is better than Kumo (another name in contention by Microsoft), when I read the single syllable word “Bing” after the word Microsoft, I instantly thought of another single-syllable word “Bob” – another famous Microsoft failure. I’m not trying to be funny; the association was instantaneous and completely uncontrived.

From the perspective of a geospatial professional I think Microsoft is trying to deal with an identity crisis. If we look at the suite of mapping related products/services offered by Microsoft there are:

  • Live Search Maps (Formerly Virtual Earth)
  • Microsoft Virtual Earth APIs – which were used to interact with Live Search Maps
  • MapPoint Web Service

In the near future Bing rebranding will change:

  • Live Search Maps = Bing Maps
  • Microsoft Virtual Earth API = Bing Maps for Enterprise

Since the MapPoint Web Service name is not being changed, I’m guessing that this does not bode well for its future.

I am curious about whether there are plans to align all of the Windows Live products (Messenger, Mail, Calendar, Photos, Spaces, SkyDrive, etc.) around the Bing brand. Otherwise, it seems there will still be an identify crisis when it comes to consumer products. I am supposed to use Bing to search, but use Live for everything else.) Not to tout the obvious, but gMail, gTalk, Google Docs, etc. all unite around the name Google. How will Bing and Live become associated with Microsoft without millions of dollars of marketing?

I do think it’s a good idea for Microsoft to fix its geospatial product identify crisis and align their search related offerings around one brand. However, I think the product/service naming could be tighter. For example, Google’s mapping environment is named Google Maps. Their API is named the Google Maps API. Their 3D version is named Google Earth. It’s all very intuitive. It’s why I liked the name “Virtual Earth”, it worked.

If Microsoft wants to align their geospatial offerings around a fun (and potentially verb-able) product name like Bing, then I suggest they name their primary mapping products “Bing Earth” and “Bing Earth for Enterprise”. The API would then be called “Bing Earth API”. While they are at it, they could rename the desktop application MapPoint to “Bing Earth Studio” or “Bing Earth Desktop”. Sure Google would be mad, but is the name Bing Maps any different than Google Maps? Besides, Microsoft was already using the word Earth in Virtual Earth, so there’s already a precedent for some overlap.

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