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Microsoft Sharpens Bing Entertainment Searches

Bing is changing the way it handles searches for music and video to make itself more of a destination.

Microsoft on Tuesday introduced a series of significant changes in the way that its Bing search engine presents search results for entertainment-related queries, which account for about 7% of Bing searches.

Searches for songs now return results that include links to Bing-hosted lyric pages and to full-length song streaming for over 5 million songs in the Zune catalog. Users can play songs all the way through once, with subsequent plays limited to 30 second previews.

Users who want to buy the songs are provided with links to Amazon, iTunes, and Zune.

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Searches for games return detailed information on over 35,000 games, including reviews, cheats and walk-throughs. For almost a hundred games associated with Microsoft Games, Microsoft is allowing Bing users to play the games from within Bing.

In making these changes, Microsoft appears to agree with Apple's contention that the Web is just too disorganized and dangerous for the average user.

"As the content on the Web has exploded, it has become difficult to navigate and find what you are looking for," said Yusuf Mehdi, SVP of Bing, in a blog post. "In the field of entertainment, 76% of people use search to help find and navigate their entertainment options online, but only 10% say they have a trusted place to go."

By keeping users on its own Web properties for certain entertainment-related searches, Microsoft is moving to make itself more of an Apple-style gatekeeper, with all the revenue opportunities that that entails, and less of a neutral director of traffic.

Microsoft has also organized TV show information and movie information, such as local show times, to make the experience of searching for entertainment more immediately useful.

In coming weeks, it plans to add detailed TV show information tuned to users' local areas and service providers.

According to Experian Hitwise, Google's share of U.S. Internet searches reached 72% last month, up 1%. During this same period, other leading search engines saw their U.S. search share decline, with Yahoo falling 3% and Bing falling 2%.

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