Bing has been struggling to make a significant dent in Google’s share of the search market since its launch, but Bing’s share has been slowly growing over that time. While Bing still has a very long way to go if it intends to catch Google, recent developments can only serve to help it on its way.
On Monday, Apple revealed iOS 7, the new version of the operating system that powers iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. This is greatly significant for Bing. Apple has not exactly made Bing the default search on the devices, but it has replaced Google with Bing on the Siri feature, which is starting to look a great deal more competitive with Google’s conversational search and Knowledge Graph offerings.
While demonstrating the operating system at the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple revealed a handful of new Siri features. It can now understand more types of commands. The examples Apple showed were:
“Play last voicemail”
“What is John Appleseed saying?”
“Tell me about surfing”
“What are the best beaches for surfing?”
Siri will now include web results from Bing when it doesn’t have a direct answer for the user, replacing Google as the provider of supplemental web results. Here’s what Bing Corporate Vice President Derrick Connel had to say about it:
Starting this fall with iOS 7, Bing will power Siri’s new integrated web search. When users ask Siri a question either the specific answer or web search links will now be delivered automatically so users can find information even faster.
Bing was designed from the outset to be a great place for web search helping customers quickly find what they are looking for and get more out of search. We are thrilled that all the great results people have come to know and love on Bing.com will now be available to Siri users on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
Making sure customers can have access to the power of Bing where and when they need it has been a big focus of the work we have done over the past few years, and we are excited to work with Apple to deliver it to Siri users this fall.
Siri also now utilizes Wikipedia content to provide users with information making it much more like Google’s offering. Google’s Knowledge Graph relies heavily on Wikipedia.
Siri also now searches Twitter when users want to know what people are saying about a topic.
Siri itself is becoming a better competitor to Google’s voice search (which for some Android users is probably the primary way they search from their mobile devices) simply by making it do more things. With greater functionality, it stands to reason that people will use it more, and with Bing providing the web results, that means more people searching Bing.
Now consider how many people use iOS. At Apple’s event, CEO Tim Cook revealed that the company has sold 600 million iOS devices since the first iPhone was introduced. According to Cook, iPhone users use their device 50% more than Android users use theirs. He also noted that 60% of the mobile web share goes to iOS, and that 93% of iOS users are using the latest version of iOS. That’s a lot of potential Siri users, which going forward could translate to a growing number of Bing users, even if they’re not going to Bing.com to conduct their searches.
How long until Apple brings Siri to the dekstop? It’s somewhat surprising that it’s not included in the new Mac OS X Mavericks, which is getting more features previously only available on iOS. It seems like only a matter of time, especially considering that Google recently launched its conversational search (previously only available on Android) for the desktop.
So, suffice it to say, Apple has the potential to greatly help Bing get more users. But it’s not just Apple.
Think about Facebook, with its over a billion users strong. Bing has long been the provider of web results on Facebook Search, but Facebook Search is changing. At this point, to some of us Graph Search seems like it’s been around for a long time, and it hasn’t exactly revolutionized search, but it’s easy to forget how early it really is in the life of Graph Search.
Facebook hasn’t even rolled it out to all users. It’s unclear just what percentage of users have it at this point. It’s not a stat that Facebook provides. But beyond that, Facebook also has much bigger plans for what Graph Search will actually do. Eventually, it will be able to retrieve a lot of different kinds of data than what it does today.
Another major factor for Graph Search is that it has yet to be launched for mobile, which is the format that would make much of Graph Search’s current functionality more useful. For example, one of its current strong points it local search. It would be much more helpful to be able to pull up nearby restaurants when you’re close by (similar to Yelp’s new feature).
And like with Siri, the more useful Graph Search gets, the more people will potentially find themselves perusing web results provided by Bing rather than Google. In either case (Siri or Graph Search), even if they don’t have to resort to the Bing-provided web results, they’re searching with non-Google products to begin with. Whether it’s Apple, Facebook or Bing, they’re getting their answers from someone that’s not Google, and that’s not good for Google.
Microsoft itself is also going out of its way to get people using Bing more from its other products like Windows and Xbox (two very popular products, I might add).
While many have been less than impressed with Microsoft’s big Xbox One announcement, there’s not doubt that it will get its share of users. Here’s Bing’s role in that console, as described by Microsoft:
Bing also is tightly integrated into the Xbox entertainment experience. When you search by voice for movies, TV shows or music, Bing is the service providing the instant responses. That experience is going to get a WHOLE lot better with Xbox One. I don’t know about you, but snap mode looked incredibly compelling to me. Now imagine you’re watching a movie on your new Xbox One and you want to find additional information about the cast. As Yusuf showed yesterday, just say, “Xbox, Snap Internet Explorer.” Now IE with Bing as my home page is running next to the movie I’m watching. Finding information about the cast is, yes, just a snap. Or, as Don Mattrick said in explaining the team’s mission to transform our entertainment experiences, “Simple. Instant. Complete.”
Then there’s Windows 8.1, which gets a substantial Bing upgrade. With the new Bing experience on Windows, users get rich images across their search results, and Bing searches across the web and the user’s machine.
“With search in Windows 8.1 our intent is to have one way to find what you’re looking for, no matter where it lives – whether it’s a document on your PC, a photo album in the cloud, an app, PC setting or a website. In just a tap or a click you can play, view, launch, or browse,” explained Connell in a recent blog post. “To set the course, we looked hard how people have been interacting with the new user experience introduced in Windows 8. Search has long been a part of Windows – especially powerful and useful in Windows 8 – where the Search Charm gives you a single place to find content in your apps. People told us they liked the ease of having fewer places to search. In Windows 8, people could direct their question at an app (like Travel) and have Bing bring back a beautiful, multi-faceted set of information and tools to help them plan their summer trip. But Windows 8.1 takes an even bigger step – with its new search experience, you can find your own personal stuff as well as content from the open web and the creativity of the millions of authors and developers.”
“Imagine you’re planning a trip to Paris,” he added. “Simply type the name of the city and you’ll immediately see beautiful, full-bleed images, upcoming events in the city, and popular attractions. But you can also check the current weather and book a hotel in the Bing Travel app, without having to open it up and type ‘Paris’ again. In the same way, your itinerary and budget, whether they are saved on your laptop or in the cloud, are right there. And of course, we’ll show you the great web results you’ve come to expect from Bing. ‘Paris’ isn’t just a single file or a search query in an app: it is a concept, full of both meaning and context, and we’ll bring its unique meaning to your digital life, all in one place.”
Of course all of this Bing exposure also means more branding for Bing, and could result in more people simply thinking of Bing when it’s time to just perform a search regardless of what device they’re using. All of the movie and TV product replacement could help too, not to mention the TV commercials.
I wouldn’t count on Bing overtaking Google’s share of the search market anytime soon, but it seems fairly likely that we’re going to continue to see Bing chipping away at it little by little, and some moves may result in bigger chunks.