Microsoft Bing made some mobile application and browsing moves to make it easier for users to find iPhone applications and share content via Facebook, features the company hopes will differentiate it from Google's mobile offerings for the iPhone and Android handsets.
The Bing team added an auto app discovery feature that surfaces applications in the context of typical Web queries.
Now users who search for apps such as Thor 3D, Facebook and Hotels in Seattle from their iPhone's Bing for Mobile app will see appropriate apps surface on Bing from their iPhone.
The idea is to help iPhone users avoid the needle-in-the-haystack search for Apple App Store apps, which now number more than 400,000.
Bing will also now find the app a user is searching for using the exact app name or other criteria. Now queries such as Top iPhone Apps, News Apps and Download Fruit Ninja will also surface relevant programs.
Moreover, to make it easier for iPhone users to get to the apps themselves, Bing can also launch some installed apps, such as Yelp, Facebook and IMDb, directly from the app search results.
If an app is not installed on a user's iPhone, when they click on the download link Bing takes them to the iTunes App Store to download the app. If the app is already installed and the developer has enabled the launch functionality, then it will launch automatically.
This is something that Google, Apple and others may seriously consider trying their own implementation of to make app downloads more palatable for users.
Bing's moves come as Google is improving app discovery in its Android Market. The company also quietly added a feature that tells users whether an app they want to download its compatible with their Android smartphone or tablet.
Bing's upgrades for the iPhone come after Google's mobile app team spent the last several months improving functionality for the Google Mobile app for iPhone.
Bing for Mobile Web browsing, m.bing.com, also has a few new features available for smartphones that support HTML5, including iPhone, Android and RIM BlackBerry OS 6 devices.
There is a new Share on Facebook feature, which lets users share images, local business details, and applications (for iOS devices) with Facebook friends.
The Bing for Mobile browser home page now features a carousel that lets users flip through the headlines or scroll down to see the top three headlines and images for U.S, world, local, entertainment, science/technology, business politics, sports, and health news.
Also, while it won't be confused for Google's Place Pages anytime soon, Microsoft also integrated map directions and business listings in a single view.