Microsoft is updating its Bing search engine with features centered on entertainment such as music and movies, as it seeks to gain a little more market share from search archrival Google.
Bing's homepage now features an Entertainment tab, which leads to a page with separate tabs for Music, Movies, TV, Games and Video Games. While previous additions to Bing, such as Maps, seemed more intended to establish the search engine as a viable Google competitor, the Entertainment tab tilts the site's balance more toward the look and feel of a Yahoo-like Web portal.
"In this release of Bing one of the biggest investments we are making is in the area of entertainment," Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of Microsoft's Bing unit, wrote June 22 on the Bing Community blog. "Working with key groups inside Microsoft that have deep entertainment heritage, we've made significant investments in four key areas: Music, Gaming, Movies and TV. Our focus was on making it easy-if you can type in a search box, you can have a great entertainment experience on Bing."
With regard to music, typing in the name of an artist or band will return lyrics, photos, videos, tour dates and streaming songs via Microsoft's Zune service. The first song-play from Zune's catalog is free; after that, you're limited to 30-second previews, unless you purchase and download the tune from Amazon.com, Zune or iTunes.
Bing's new gaming section seems bifurcated into two areas: casual games, which can be played for free via Bing, and the Video Games tab, which includes cheats, walkthroughs, official sites and trailers for console games such as "Batman: Arkham Asylum" and "Red Dead Redemption."
The TV section offers full-length episodes from over 1,500 shows, some of them with high-definition content; the Movies area gives the latest movie showtimes, reviews, synopses and trailers.
Since its launch in summer 2009, when some industry pundits expressed doubts about its long-term longevity, Bing has been slowly gaining market share from Google-although the latter's market share, variously estimated at somewhere between 66 and 72 percent, still eclipses Bing's of between 9.43 and 12 percent. Last summer's search-and-advertising deal with Yahoo, which will see Bing powering back-end search on that Yahoo's Websites, is expected to double Bing's market share.
Features added to Bing over the previous six months include Bing Maps with Streetside, which offers an eye-level view of local terrain, a Bing Bar for Internet Explorer and Firefox that places Bing's functionality in a series of one-click icons beneath the browser's URL bar, and Local Events, which studs a map with pins showing the day's happenings around a particular location. A mobile version of Bing recently appeared on the iPhone, and will be integrated into the upcoming Windows Phone 7.