ChatGPT vs. Microsoft Bing’s new A.I. chatbot: First look

An attendee interacts with the AI-powered Microsoft Bing search engine and Edge browser during an event at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, US, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. Microsoft unveiled new versions of its Bing internet-search engine and Edge browser powered by the newest technology from ChatGPT maker OpenAI.

Chona Kasinger | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft has given a small group of people early access to the new version of its Bing search engine boosted with artificial intelligence courtesy of startup OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT.

CNBC has spent some time testing it. The new Bing can at times be more helpful, or at least more entertaining, than the usual blue links in search results. And it’s similar to ChatGPT in that it provides a lot more information than you might expect from a traditional search.

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If Microsoft manages to get more people to use Bing, it could make the company even more profitable than it already is. For every percentage point that Microsoft gains in search advertising, it will pick up $2 billion in new revenue, Phil Ockenden, finance chief for the company’s Windows, devices and search divisions, said on a Tuesday conference call with analysts. “This is the largest software category that exists, and it’s incredibly profitable, incredibly large and still growing,” Amy Hood, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, said on the call.

So far, the new Bing feels like it’s been supercharged, and at the very least, people might want to try it out to see if it satisfies them more than traditional search engines that billions of people have come to know in the past 25 years.

Here’s what it’s like.

You can chat with the new Bing

After you search on Bing, you can challenge the results rather than clicking on a few URLs or typing out a new query. To compare, I asked the current version of Bing to identify the largest software category, to which it said the answer is “enterprise software” with a citation to Statista. The new version provides similar information at the top of the search results page, but below that, you’ll find a text box in which you can type a message and kick off a chat. You might ask, “Really?” And Bing will respond with more information attempting to validate its previous answer.

That gets into the question of accuracy. You might ask the AI-boosted search engine if the response is wrong, for example. And the new chat feature will say that “one could argue that search advertising is the largest software category in the world by revenue,” and hedges by noting there are many ways to evaluate different kinds of software. That’s not what we’re used to seeing when we go to a search engine. It’s downright entertaining.

Bing is now like ChatGPT but it can provide more information

Other differences between Bing and ChatGPT

Microsoft’s supercharged Bing seems to offer better advice than ChatGPT, at least regarding the following prompt: “Create a fitness routine and meal plan for me over the next 3 months. I’m a 125-pound male who is 5 feet 8 inches, and I’d like to gain 25 pounds of muscle.”

When given that prompt, ChatGPT displays a bulleted list of a proposed fitness routine and meal plan that presumably would lead someone to gain 25 pounds of muscle in 90 days. The tips include weightlifting (45-60 minutes, four or five times a week), cardio (20-30 minutes, two to three times a week) and a dinner “that is high in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Examples include salmon with quinoa and vegetables or a turkey burger with sweet potato fries.”

Bing, however, notes that it might not be realistic to gain 25 pounds in three months, and it warns that doing so could be “potentially unhealthy.” Gaining that much muscle mass could “require a lot of genetic potential, steroids, or both,” Bing noted, linking out to an article from the Healthline website about the subject.

Recognizing that the search query contains a potentially harmful premise, Bing suggests that you “adjust your expectations and aim for a more reasonable and sustainable goal, such as 10-15 pounds of muscle in 3 months.”

The search tool then shares a list of some general tips to help people bulk up, including adding more protein to one’s diet, lifting weights and getting rest.

At times the Bing chatbot opted not to do things that ChatGPT would do. Bing demurred when asked to compose an email to employees telling them that some would be laid off, while others would be given recognition for their excellent performance. But OpenAI gladly created an email, subject line and all.

Bing said that coming up with such a message is “a sensitive and personal matter that requires human judgment and empathy.”

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