What Just Happened? Thursday Was Supposed To Be Bing Day.

Everyone knew today was the day that Microsoft was going to launch their new search engine. Everyone’s been talking about it for months, and the press and marketing efforts were carefully tailored to maximize the impact. Thursday, May 28, 2009 was supposed to be Microsoft Bing Day.

A little after 8 am this morning Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer himself took the stage at the exclusive All Things Digital conference near San Diego, California and announced to a few hundred elite executives that Microsoft would soon be releasing its new search engine, and that it would be called Bing.

One problem right off the bat: the Bing.com site wasn’t live. And since press didn’t know the name until Ballmer said it, it took a while for the news to spread.

Another problem: A team of Google engineers based in Sydney was simultaneously announcing a stealth project 4+ years in the making called Wave. And it wasn’t being announced to a select few top business executives. Instead, the team that created it was showing it to 4,000 developers at the Google IO conference in San Francisco, California.

You know that scene in the Lord Of The Rings movie where the huge eye of Sauron on top of that mountain swings its view from the alliance troops massed at the Black Gate of Mordor over to the real action, Frodo with the Ring at the Cracks of Doom?

That’s basically what happened today. The eyes of the world, and the press, swung from San Diego to San Francisco as they realized what was happening. And what was happening was this: Google stole Microsoft’s thunder with one of the most ambitious and exciting products the tech world has seen in a long while.

At the end of the Google Wave presentation, 4,000 developers stood up and cheered like nothing we’ve seen outside of a Steve Jobs keynote. That picture above isn’t the crowd of gray haired execs cheering Bing. It’s a mass of engineers going wild over a new open source communications platform from Google. And yes, that guy on the right was literally waving his laptop in the air in excitement.

The fact that everyone in attendance was still glowing from a free Android G2 phone that was handed out the day before didn’t hurt, either.

So what happened? Well, the company that will do no evil will certainly engage in a little stealth black ops mission when its required. Google knew full well exactly when Bing was going to launch. And they carefully planned the Wave launch to occur just minutes afterwards. They knew the crowd was ready for something cool. Not only did they have that free phone, but the day before Google VP Engineering Vic Gundotra told the crowd that there would be a big announcement the next day. People were ready and willing to be wowed.

And while Wave certainly deserves every bit of positive attention it got today, the fact that it’s an open source project didn’t hurt, either. San Francisco engineers love open source like east coast liberals love Obama.

Microsoft never stood a chance. As far as the San Francisco developer crowd is concerned, Bing stands for “But It’s Not Google.”

Photo credit: I have no idea. If you know, please tell me in the comments so I can ask forgiveness for using it without permission and give proper credit. Update: Chris Campbell took the photo, per the comments below. Thanks Chris!