For decades, Microsoft and Apple have engaged in the oddest of rivalries. Ostensibly at each other's throats over operating systems and smartphones, the pair nonetheless offers a version of Office for Mac, and Microsoft once famously invested $150 million in Apple to keep it operating during the dark years.
Microsoft knows a market when it sees one, in other words, and Apple seems disinclined to reject many things that would bring customers into its fold. Hence, the new appearance of Bing for iPad: Microsoft's search engine on the one device that threatens, if not the PC-centric paradigm on which Microsoft built its business, certainly Redmond's attempts to make a name for itself in the tablet market.
"Bing for iPad goes beyond the traditional search experience, offering a unique and visually rich way to search the Web," read an April 7 posting by Zachary Gutt, Bing's lead program manager. "The app is designed from the ground up for touch. You can quickly browse news, movies, Bing homepage images, local business lists and much more-all with the swipe of your finger."
The custom design includes a home screen loaded with information on local weather, top news, maps and stock market news. Users can also tap on "Trends" to access information about popular topics. The multiple map views include road, aerial and bird's-eye, while allowing the user to save businesses and destinations to their address book or calendar.
The free application also includes voice search. "Bing's autosuggest feature helps you refine your search by providing suggestions based on your recent searches and related searches done by other people," Gutt added. "When searching for a popular topic, Bing provides the most relevant answer up top, complete with quick links to help you complete your task faster."
Microsoft has inked a number of partnerships in its attempt to make Bing a viable rival to Google. In addition to its agreement with Yahoo to power the Web-portal company's backend search, Microsoft has also worked to deepen its friendship with Facebook for U.S. users, even extending the social network's Liked Results to any URLs retrieved by Bing's algorithmic search.
Microsoft and Facebook originally announced their social-search partnership in October 2010, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared onstage with Microsoft executives to talk about how social tools could enhance more generalized Web search. "We're hired-wired so that information about people is the most interesting information we track in the world," he told the audience.
Bing's further movement into tablets, of course, suggests a search engine looking for still further advantages in establishing market-share.