Microsoft has rolled out a new mobile app for Bing built with HTML5 and available first only to iPhone and Android users, not to Windows Phone users. It may be another indication that Microsoft is turning its attention away from its home-baked development platforms .Net and Silverlight and toward the industry-standard HTML5.
Because a version of Bing is already integrated with Windows Phone 7, the new Bing HTML5 app at first is available to iPhone and Android users only, with BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 versions to follow at an unspecified later date. Internet Explorer 9 with support for HTML5 is one of the features touted with Windows Phone 7.5, the Mango release.
"The functionality of the app is based on HTML5 and currently only works on iPhone and Android phones. We're working to release a new Bing app for Windows Phone 7 devices in the future," a Microsoft spokesperson told Network World.
The new HTML5-based app, Bing for Mobile, brings the Bing search engine to mobile phones. It also includes features like Maps with a List/Split view, real-time transit information, a search history and a "deals" feature. The deals feature aggregates information from coupon sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Tippr.
Camera support and voice search across platforms
To be fair, Bing did get an overhaul with Windows Phone 7.5, and added features like voice searching, music search and camera/photo-based searching (Bing recognises the text or the barcode).
Delivering Bing as an HTML5 app offers several advantages, says Santanu Basu, Microsoft's product manager of Bing for Mobile, in a blog post.
"Rather than tightly binding functions into a mobile client, we want to embrace the drive towards exposing our functions via an HTML5 experience. In order for search to advance, engines need to be able to call functions that are currently 'hiding' in apps," he wrote. "Using HTML5, our goal is to build a mobile experience that leverages the unique capabilities of the different platforms including camera support and voice search, while making the functions the apps can provide consistent across the platforms and - in the future - callable by engines to help people get from searching to doing."
This praise for HTML5 on mobile platforms may also be telling. Microsoft is seemingly pushing out its own development platforms in favor of the next revision of HTML, which supports rich multimedia applications and experiences. Windows developers, be they in the enterprise or ISVs, have invested years in effort and many training dollars in Microsoft platforms, from Win32 and COM to .Net, Silverlight and Windows Presentation Foundation.
Moving on from Silverlight to HTML5
Even last year, with the initial release of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft had been pushing developers into writing Silverlight applications for it. With support for HTML5 in Mango, these new Bing apps indicate that even Microsoft is starting to move on.
With the Bing for Mobile app and the missing Lync for Mobile app, even Microsoft will develop first for iPhone and Android over Windows Phone. Ironically, the one place Microsoft is dragging its feet in supporting its competitors' technologies is the area customers most want such support: remote access and Microsoft's cloud services.