Microsoft today confirmed that the UK will be seeing its new Bing 'decision engine' on the worldwide launch date of June 3, but that the service will be missing key features compared to the US.

Like the US site, the UK's beta launch will have a new layout that aims to provide intuitive access to relevant answers, with a Best Match result for popular queries and Instant Answers to simple, factual questions.

Bing UK (accessible soon at www.bing.com) will also focus on the four areas of online shopping, travel, health questions and local businesses where Microsoft believes consumers are currently facing information overload.

No Groups or Tabs

However, the British site will lack features such as Web Groups, which groups results in intuitive ways both on the Explore Pane and in the actual results, and Quick Tabs, which is essentially a table of contents for different categories of search results.

There was also no mention in the UK press release of such intriguing features as: Sentiment Extraction (not as painful as it sounds), which aims to match consumer reviews and opinions to buying decisions; Rate Key for hotels; and Price Predictor for airfares.

Paul Stoddart, UK Search Lead at Microsoft, says: "Bing is being built in the UK over the next six to twelve months based on consumer insights." Apparently, the "full proposition" will be developed using market specific requirements at Microsoft's newly launched Search Technology Centre in London.

Set up to shop

However, European searchers will see the first fruits of Microsoft's acquisition of price comparison website Ciao, with shoppers in in seven European countries (UK, The Netherlands, Spain, Germany, France, Italy and Sweden) able to compare in-depth info and prices on about 7 million items and services across thousands of e-tailers. We'll also get access to over 5 million consumer reviews, in both text and video formats.

Paul Stoddart adds: "The major search engines were developed over a decade ago and we believe the category is still in its infancy. In 1997, there were only 100,000 websites compared with over 160 million worldwide today, so it's important to challenge and evolve the search market and to make it as easy and relevant as possible for today's consumers."

However, Martin McNulty, director of online marketing agency, Trafficbroker, notes: "While Bing brings some exciting new features to search, the big difference between it and Google is that Google is embedded in our culture and language, while Bing is still in beta. That's one hell of a gap to bridge."