This week, Microsoft’s very own search engine, Bing, turned five years old. The company took the opportunity to showcase some of Bing’s most popular image-based backdrops, but the search engine has done much more than just looking pretty recently.
On Monday at WWDC, Apple showed how it has integrated Bing into Mac OS X Yosemite, dropping Google as its desktop search engine for the search function Spotlight. Bing will further be the workhorse behind the mobile version of Spotlight for forthcoming iOS 8 devices.
On Apple’s Safari web browser, Google is still the default search engine, but Siri and Spotlight now both run through Bing.
Apple said in a statement: "The Bing Platform puts advanced intelligence in places like Cortana, multi-lingual abilities in Facebook and Twitter, and even powers Siri and Spotlight in the new OS X to help find answers."
However, Bing is still a long, long way behind Google in terms of market share. According to market research from ComScore issued in April Google has a 67.6% search engine market share in April in the United States, with Bing gaining 18.7%.
Netmarketshare’s May figures don’t look so healthy for Bing either. It gives Google a 68.69% desktop market share against Bing’s 6.22%. For mobile devices, the chasm widens even more with Google gaining a 91.92% market share versus Bing’s 2.25%.
Mobile/tablet search engine market share May 2014. Source: Netmarketshare
Microsoft and Bing are remaining confident, though. On the fifth anniversary blog post, Bing said: "The idea of launching a browser, going to a website, and typing in a search box? That’s so 2009. The best is not yet to come but on the imminent horizon. As the world of devices constantly changes and new form factors come into play there will be a need to better use information, either by seeking it out or having it pushed to you, and take action. Bing has shifted its focus to be in position to be the search for this new, changing world."
Of course, what Microsoft may well be referring to is Bing’s deep-level integration with Cortana, and the future Windows platform as a whole. In this post, CBR described how Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, is following on the path of Google Now, with highly relevant and contextual information brought to your devices to help better users’ lives.
Cortana is due to be rolled out on Windows Phone 8.1 this summer, and Bing hinted at the machine-learning future in the blog post: "You should expect relevant information to come to you when and where you need it. You should expect experiences to adapt to you and your context, instead of the other way around. You should expect proactive experiences that anticipate what you need. You should expect information to be actionable for what you need at home or work. Only Bing and Microsoft can provide all of this, and we couldn’t be more excited for the next five years and beyond."
It seems as though, in the world of voice and integrated search, context is very much king. Microsoft’s early peddling of a Siri-killer could be what pushes Bing into the spotlight when the shift from step-by-step type searching to almost instantaneous, possibly predictive machine learnt search happens.
Cortana is based off a Halo video game series character
"So many pieces of technology and talent have come together to where we can begin to realize our science fiction dreams of invisible computing," said Microsoft optimistically.
"People used to interact with digital interfaces in one way – on computer monitor. Now there are dozens of ways with varying levels of capability. We want to reduce these interaction barriers. Bing began to see this trend early and decoupled pieces of the system to make them work across the range of computing devices we use on a daily basis."