Despite the rollout of an overhauled video portal, collated contextual home and doctor data, and eerily accurate sports soothsaying, Microsoft’s Bing remains pretty much in a holding pattern. According to comScore’s most recent report on the desktop search market, the nascent search engine ratcheted up a gain in market share of only tenths of a percentage point in September when it reached 20.6 percent of the search market, from its previous high point of 20.3 percent achieved in March. Microsoft’s not conceding desktop search quite yet — Bing made an operating profit to the tune of more than $1 billion last quarter, after all — but to the company’s credit, it seems receptive to the idea of ceding desktop search in favor of a more attainable platform: mobile.
Today, the Redmond computing giant unveiled a new Bing for iPhone app that, in Bing chief Richard Qian’s words, “helps you ‘find’ and ‘do’ faster and easier than ever before.” It achieves that objective with a spartan aesthetic — the only buttons are navigation arrows, a share and multitasking menu, and a transparent search bar — and a curatorial, “deep links” approach to search not dissimilar to the Google app on Android. Do a search for Miley Cyrus and you’ll get shortcuts to the relevant page within relevant apps such as Wikipedia, iTunes, Twitter, YouTube, and Amazon. Submit a query about “Blade Runner” and Bing will serve up the release year and cast from IMDB, a score from Rotten Tomatoes, and tappable buy buttons for Netflix and other streaming services. It works just as well with searches for physical locations, too: browse a restaurant and you’ll get Yelp reviews, directions, and links to book a reservation.
For data more quickly parsed with a camera, the new Bing packs another goodie: a built-in scanner that recognizes QR codes and barcodes. It’s fast and accurate, and accessible via a tap on the Bing logo.
Perhaps the new Bing app’s only downside involves the very clear partitions around it — it doesn’t integrate with the Microsoft’s cross-platform personal assistant app on iOS, Cortana, right now. General Manager of Search Ryan Gavin told The Verge that decision was very intentional. “We really do think of Cortana as your digital personal assistant,’ he said. “Reaching into search, and reaching into Bing to provide great answers to questions, that’s a big part of her promise, but not her only promise.”
As for the Bing team’s plan to bring new search experience to other platforms, Gavin said it’ll come to Android in the near future. “This is really just a reflection of our work across search, across platforms,” he said. But iOS device owners don’t have to wait: the updated Bing app is a free download on the App Store.