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Bing Update for iPhone Adds Social Media Features

By Stuart J. Johnston

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Microsoft updated its Bing search client for the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad on Tuesday.

The upgraded client, Bing 1.2, adds combined status updates for users' Facebook and Twitter accounts within Bing, according to a post on Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Bing Community blog.

"Now when you search for something using our Bing app, you'll see Web results along with relevant results from your social network. So if you search for a movie, you'll see movie show times first, then anything your friends may have said about it next," the blog post said.

Another addition lets users take advantage of the iPhone's camera to scan barcodes on products and also to scan cover art for CDs, DVDs, books, and video games, and retrieve pertinent information based on the scans.

The Bing update will return many types of information based on those scans -- such as reviews, merchants that carry a product, and prices, enabling users to comparison shop using their iPhones.

While Bing on the iPhone may be primarily for consumers, however, anything that promotes Bing's use raises its market share vis-à-vis competitors such as Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), and makes Microsoft's search engine more appealing for Web advertising buyers.

Bing has made slow but sure gains against both Google and Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) in the year since its launch. However, in May, Bing still only had 10.8 percent market share among search engines, well behind Google with 66.4 percent share, according to Web analytics firm comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR).

Bing 1.2, which is free, runs on Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhones, the iPod Touch, and the iPad. It requires iOS 3.0 or later.

Other new features in the update include an expanded shopping section with reviews, ratings, and prices, the blog post said.

Ken Levy, a former Microsoft manager who now develops iPhone applications as president of MashupX LLC gave the Bing update a thumbs up.

"The new Bing app for the iPhone is a nice update. It allows you to turn on the ability to hold the phone to your ear, hear a beep, then speak the search. This is like the Google app," Levy, who is also president of the .NET User Group in Redmond, Wash. -- Microsoft's backyard -- told InternetNews.com.

Other Microsoft iPhone news

The Bing update is not the only iPhone app that Microsoft has been working on.

For instance, on Monday, the company announced it is shipping a Windows Live Messenger Mobile client for iPhone.

Bing for the iPhone first surfaced last December.

In early June at its Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced it was adding Bing as one of the three search options on the iPhone, though Apple did not make it the default search engine, as had been rumored; that spot still belongs to Google.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.