SAN FRANCISCO, 15 DECEMBER 2010 - Microsoft on Wednesday showed how Facebook friends will be able to influence Bing users' search results, as part of a wide-ranging update on search that also included developments for its image, maps and mobile services.
The new Facebook features are supposed to help Bing users find more useful and reliable search results. A person who searches for the name of a musician, for example, might see that a friend has already "liked" a particular fan page about that artist.
"I believe 'social' will change search fundamentally in the way people organize queries, how people discover answers and maybe even answer queries," said Satya Nadella, senior vice president for R&D with Microsoft's Online Services Division, at an event for press in San Francisco.
The new Facebook capabilities, which build on an existing partnership with the company, are being rolled out now and should be available to all users by the end of the year, said Paul Yiu, principal group program manager for Bing.
Bing now has 90 million users and its market share stands at 11.8 percent, Nadella said, citing figures from comScore. While that's still far behind Google, Bing has seen its share increase gradually every month since its launch 18 months ago, he said.
The Bing iPhone application has been downloaded 5.5 million times, according to Nadella. "We're in the top 10 list for iPhone apps in 2010," he said, adding "that's good for us to be up there with Angry Birds."
Hoping to maintain that momentum, Microsoft announced some new mobile Bing features that are being rolled out this week, including a mobile version of Streetside, which is Microsoft's take on Google StreetView.
Blaise Aguera y Arcas, the architect for Bing Maps, struggled to demonstrate the features using an iPhone and AT&T's 3G network, which is notoriously weak in San Francisco, and had to switch to Wi-Fi.
He showed how zooming in on a map transitions automatically into Streetside, just like the desktop version of Bing Maps. And while users today can only zoom in and out or pivot left and right to look up and down a street, the new mobile maps makes it easy to travel up and down a city block looking at each building in turn.
That feature is also coming to a new desktop version of Bing Maps. That application will also show panoramic photographs of building interiors and real-time bus information in cities where it is available, Aguera y Arcas said. In San Francisco, for example, some buses are fitted with GPS devices.
The new Bing Mobile also lets users check into locations with Facebook, Foursquare and Microsoft Messenger, and make reservations at OpenTable without leaving Bing. It also includes a camera application that takes a 360-degree panorama and stiches the images together -- just like the 360 Panorama iPhone app that costs US$0.99 in the iTunes store.
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