Bing added earlier this week natural language query technology to travel searches. It provides the ability to type parameters in the search box to query results, rather than select the airport, the destination, the dates or other options to do searches on plane flights. The search results will include fare predictions, cheapest fares and possible dates for the flights.
The company also unveiled Wednesday several search features related to travel on its engine.
1) Flight Summary. Flight Summary displays an instant set of airfares as users enter flight details such as cities and dates. This provides people with an approximate cost for their trip without having to complete a full search, and allows people to see alternative travel options that could help save money or provide a better value.
2) Flight Answers. Bing offers more ways to help users find what they need faster. Flight search options have expanded to include Flight Answers, which utilize flight search and top deals. Users can type "I want to fly to Paris next January" and find a form pre-filled with January dates, or try "fly SEA to SFO on Dec. 9 returning Dec 12" to find precise flight information. Users can also construct queries around one-way, non-stop and airline-specific requests.
3) Destination Pages. Bing's new destination pages pull together all the key information on a city, saving you time and energy. Type "Miami, FL" into the search box and then navigate to the Destinations tab which includes flights and hotels, images, attractions, events, maps and a weather overview. Click through into each of the sections to see a full list or gallery relevant to the city. Over 3,000 cities across the world are included.
4) Attraction Answers. Bing attractions now features 60,000 attractions worldwide, about 20,000 in the U.S.
So, it makes sense why Microsoft joined the FairSearch.org coalition, along with U.K.-based Foundem, Singapore-based Zuji and others urging the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) to challenge Google's proposed acquisition of ITA Software for $700 million on antitrust grounds.
When Microsoft launched Bing, the Redmond, Wash., company explained its focus on the travel industry, so joining the coalition should not come as a surprise to anyone.
Google has pledged to honor all existing ITA agreements. Online travel search companies Expedia, Kayak, Travelocity, and TripAdvisor began the movement block the deal on antitrust grounds shortly after Google made the announcement of its intent. The justice department extended its investigation in August.
It's not clear if the move by Microsoft and others promoted this blog from Don Harrison, deputy general counsel at Google, on acquisitions and antitrust issues. The blog posted Wednesday points to a Washington Post article, breaking down the column into parts to help clarify Google's position, something the company appears to do a lot these days.
Harrison addresses the fact that all companies make build vs. buy decisions when it comes to acquiring technology. It all comes down to how long it would take to build the technology and the financial investment required to make it work better than what's on the market at the time. Pretty typical stuff when it comes to making the decision to either buy or build.
Google's deputy general counsel also points out companies typically bid against each other during an acquisition. He explains that in 2007, Google bought DoubleClick, but then Microsoft spent twice as much for its display ad company aQuantive and Yahoo bought ad exchange Right Media. All mature companies regularly acquire companies to make big bets on new spaces.
Anti-trust regulations aim to help protect choice, pricing and competition. All things Google appears to outline in the blog post.
Apparently, Google does have allies supporting the acquisition. Those include Orbitz Worldwide and Priceline.com.