Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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4/8/2011
10:46 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Bing For iPad A Great Upgrade

The Apple iPad gets a revised version of Microsoft's Bing search engine, which includes new features and does a better job than Google iOS search tool.

Microsoft has rebuilt Bing explicitly for the iPad and went to extra lengths to take advantage of all the capabilities of Apple's iconic tablet computer. From Bing, users can find all the news, movies times, weather reports, and local businesses without ever jumping away from the application.

Bing's revised start page opens up with a quick view of what's going on. The search bar -- including voice search -- is at the top of the page. At least three-quarters of the page is consumed by the awesome Bing.com photos. Along the bottom of the home screen, there's a strip of panels that show you the local weather, breaking news headlines, maps, nearby movies, online trends, and of course the stock markets. It's a slick-looking page, and far more attractive than the one provided by Google's iOS search application.

There are some limited settings tools, accessed via controls in the search bar, that let you adjust some of Bing's behaviors. Safe search can be turned on/off, search history can be cleared, and location settings can be modified. These tools are always available at the top of the page, but the strip of panels along the bottom vanishes from the screen once you perform a search.

Bing automatically suggests search queries as you type in the search bar, and will also filter in search results based on the fragments that you've typed. It leaves suggestions in a panel to the left and the results in a larger window to the right. Once the search is complete, you can refine the search to images, news, etc., from the left-side panel with a quick tap.

Perhaps the best features of Bing for iPad are the built-in browser and swipe function. The search window is its own browser. All the search results are delivered there and behave just as they would on Bing.com. Once you find the result you're looking for, pressing it doesn't close Bing and open Safari -- Bing takes you there in the app. It also lets you easily swipe back-and-forth between results without the need to press a "back" button or re-perform the search. That's very handy.

As for performance, it is fast. Search suggestions appear instantly and can follow even the fastest typing I could muster. Results are also delivered in short order.

The home screen panels are a great way to scan through headlines and other information. Without any input from me, Bing for iPad located my device and automatically gave me the local weather report (looks like the next few days are going to be rainy). The news headlines are arranged in a series of rows (similar to Pulse) by headings such as Top Stories, World, U.S., and so on. You then swipe each row left or right to access more stories. The Trends section arranges everything by day, so you can see what the most popular stories are throughout the week. Simply swipe left or right to see what was trending earlier in the week.

In all honesty, this application beats the pants off of Google's iOS search application. It gives you a lot more information in an easy-to-grasp way that is enhanced by the colorful photos.

Microsoft gets five stars from me for this app. (Oh, I forgot to mention, it is free.)


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