Microsoft is aiming to capitalize on the same local-deals fervor driving the popularity of Groupon and similar Websites, with a new Bing "Deals" tab that lets mobile users access daily discounts in their particular area. Desktop Bing users have also been given the means to scan for local deals.
Bing's mobile users (via m.bing.com) will see "Deals" appear on the search engine's homepage. From there, they can scan the daily deals in their area, and sort those deals by category (such as restaurants, movie theaters, nightlife, etc.) or keyword.
For those on the desktop, deals will appear via a green "Deals" icon alongside a particular local business-if there's a deal to actually be had, of course.
"Instead of creating our own program, we've partnered with The Dealmap, to launch Bing deals," Andy Chu, director of product management, wrote in a March 3 posting on the Bing Community blog. "The Dealmap is a leading source for people to find and share the best local deals, so it naturally made sense for us to team up with them to bring you the best experience."
Bing has made slow but steady gains since its summer 2009 launch, although its market share does not exactly present an existential threat to Google. While the latter continues to dominate traditional keyword search, Bing's engineers and executives have focused on expanding their offerings in narrow verticals, such as searching for travel deals.
In line with that strategy, Bing recently upgraded its Travel Price Predictors with an autosuggest feature for airline travel fares. Bing will predict the best flight price over the next 90 days, directly in the search box, using airfare schedules and pricing collected from airlines by ITA Software.
Google is trying to purchase ITA for $700 million, although the Justice Department has indicated it has reservations over the potential deal, since it could potentially give Google too much sway over the online travel market. Should the two fail to reach an agreement, the government could very well prevent Google from absorbing ITA.
Competition between Microsoft and Google heated up in February, after the latter accused Bing of copying its search results. Microsoft promptly shot back, with executives hinting that Google had manipulated Bing, via "honey pot attacks," as a publicity stunt.
"In October 2010, we released a series of big, noticeable improvements to Bing's relevance. So big and noticeable that we are told Google took notice and began to worry," Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of Microsoft's online services division, wrote in a Feb. 2 posting on the Bing Community blog. "Then, a short time later, here come the honey pot attacks. Is the timing purely coincidence? Are industry discussions about search quality to be ignored? Is this simply a response to the fact that some people in the industry are beginning to ask whether Bing is as good or in some cases better than Google on core Web relevance?"
Whatever the answers, trust that both Google and Bing will continue adding features-and perhaps ratcheting up their rhetoric-for some time to come.