In an innovative cross-promotion effort, Microsoft is bringing Bing search to the Xbox 360. The new search feature, which will be released this holiday season, uses the Microsoft TellME voice recognition technology and the Xbox 360 Kinect sensor to allow a search experience that makes the user's body into the controller. More importantly, however, this opens up a big branding opportunity and creates additional ad space.
What Microsoft Is Up To
Microsoft has plenty of reasons to bring Bing into the Xbox framework, but there are two big highlights.
The first, and the most apparent, is the improved organization for Xbox games, media, and other content. As Microsoft continues to butt heads with Sony's PlayStation 3, the remaining unclaimed territory belongs to buyable, downloable content. By streamlining searches for that content, Microsoft gets targeted exposure for applications, subscriptions, and purchases from third-party sellers, and it does it in a way that improves the user experience.
But that's not all. The searches are conducted by saying "Xbox Bing" repeatedly. Have you ever heard of affirmation bias? If you do say something that indicates to yourself or others that you're committed to a specific idealogy or course of action, you're substantially more likely to follow through.
Beyond increasing brand recognition, having users say the company name over and over is likely to create a sense of commitment. Follow that commitment up with trust developed over time (assuming the Xbox Bing search gets positive results) and you have a surprisingly powerful tool to develop customer loyalty.
How Webmasters Should Respond
Let's be perfectly clear: Right now, this service only allows for Bing searches on the internal Xbox 360 content – which means millions of items, but not your website. However, this also opens the doors to future possibilites, including integrated web searches with the Xbox and advertising to Xbox users.
So how should you, as a webmaster, respond to this? The only way to get exposure immediately would be creating a subscription service or download in the Xbox market and targeting it to the brief keyword terms that users are likely to search with. Assuming that's not your cup of tea, just keep your eyes peeled for updates. Assuming Bing chooses to advertise or spread web results in the future, those who get on board early will have access to a highly demographic-targeted advertising mechanism.
This announcement has been largely disregarded in the world of web technologies. But considering Bing's 14 percent U.S. search market share (nearly 30 percent when combined with Yahoo search, which Bing powers), the powerful branding in this move, and the opportunity for platform expansion, this Microsoft innovation absolutely deserves your attention.
Check out the following video for the official announcement and a demonstration:
You can also check out the full presentation from the Xbox media briefing here.