Microsoft unveiled a variety of updates and improvements Wednesday, both for Bing online and mobile search apps, at an event in San Francisco.
Windows Phone 7 hit stores last month highlighting Bing, and Microsoft appears to have wasted no time releasing a series of minor enhancements that executives expect to add up to major results. The enhancements for iPhone and Android apps include Autosuggest, which refines restaurant and movie searches by making suggestions.
Bing Vision allows searchers to use the camera phone to detect text in the viewfinder to initiate a search on the word that might appear on the product. If the object has a barcode, Bing will return product results. It will also search for a nearby business listing when pointing the camera and taking a photo of a landmark.
"Mobile is a very interesting opportunity," Stefan Weitz, the director of Bing Search, told MediaPost during a recent conversation. "People are doing about 13% of searches on mobile devices. About half have a local intent. About 70% are part of a task chain such as 'barbecue joint on Market Street.'"
The mobile app announced Wednesday let users share their current location through Facebook, Foursquare or Windows Live Activity Stream. They can check in through the home page or from a local listing page. Mobile features also include an iPhone app, Opentable and Grubhub integration, real-time transit predictions, reminders by creating to-do lists, and an enhanced version of StreetSide.
Weitz also said Bing has seen traction with apps returned in search queries, particularly in the area of entertainment. The vertical launched in June has been more than 55 million casual games played in the interface, and a million audio streams from the function that allows searchers to play songs.
Success seems to have led Bing to add similar functions in the categories of local and maps. OpenTable, now integrated into local search, allows people to book reservations from the restaurant details page in Bing. And when someone finds a location of interest, they can now get a 360-degree panoramic view from local search results. The feature requires Silverlight.
Similarly, FanSnap will enable people to purchase tickets to concerts or sporting events through Bing's events details page. Maps provides the ability to get more details about shopping malls, airports and college campuses, as well as improved landmark listings, transit routing, and map app search to find information within the gallery.
All the hard work seems to be paying off for Bing, according to recent stats from comScore. U.S. Internet users conducted 18.4 billion total core search queries in October, and 11.8 billion on Google, followed by Yahoo with 3.4 billion and Microsoft at 2.2 billion.
Microsoft sites' domestic explicit core search market share grew to 11.8% in November -- up from 11.5% in October, according to comScore. Microsoft sites in November grew explicit core search volume by 31.3% year-on-year, down from 40.9% year-on-year growth in October. In the first two months of 4Q, explicit searches grew 36% year-on-year versus 40.4% growth in 3Q, the research firm said.