Microsoft's Bing search engine upgraded its Travel Price Predictors feature with an autosuggest capability for airline travel fares, a capability Google might love to offer if it succeeds in acquiring ITA Software.
This feature displays flight prices, including Bing's prediction of the best flight price over the next 90 days, directly in the search box without the user having to hit the enter button. The idea, as it is for any autosuggest feature, is to save the consumer an extra step in the sometimes frustrating search process.
The Autosuggest Flight Prices tool also recognizes where users are and instantaneously displays the Price Predictor based on their location.
Google has mastered autosuggest capabilities for its search engine, even upping the search ante versus Bing by offering Google Instant predictive search technology last year.
Bing's Travel update, then, might seem like a thorn in Google's side. Bing's Travel Price Predictors tool relies on airfare schedules and pricing collected from airlines by ITA Software.
It's ITA that Google is trying to buy for $700 million, but the Justice Department is severely scrutinizing the deal because it believes it would potentially give Google too much control over the online travel market.
Google and the DOJ are trying to hash out an agreement, which could include compulsory licensing that prohibits Google from shutting off access to the ITA firehose to online travel companies, such as Expedia and Kayak.
If the two fail to reach an understanding, which could come any day now amid ongoing talks, the DOJ would sue Google to block the deal.
Whatever the case, Bing Travel currently offers the sort of travel search service Google would love to offer by acquiring ITA.
And while Google is stuck wrangling with the DOJ, Bing Travel just got better by adding autosuggest flight prices.
It might not translate to a lot in search market share (Google has 65.6 percent; Bing has 12 percent), but it's a positive step for Bing against the market leader, which finds its efforts to expand its domain hampered by competitive dynamics.