Microsoft's surprising move means Apple and Google get Bing apps before Windows Phone 7.
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Microsoft said it has released an app that allows users of Apple and Android-based mobile devices to access its Bing search engine, a move that could expose Redmond's search technology to a wider audience but also raises questions about the company's confidence in its own platforms.
Microsoft's Bing for Mobile app comes in versions geared for Apple iOS devices, including the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, and for Google Android-based phones and tablets.
Significantly, the app is built on HTML5, rather than Microsoft's own Silverlight multimedia display technology, despite the fact that Silverlight will run on iOS and Android. Santana Basu, product manager for Bing Mobile, said Microsoft opted for HTML5 in order to deliver an experience that combines the best of both the browser and apps worlds.
"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 search to doing," said Basu, in a blog post.
In other words, purpose-built apps for mobile devices need to be able to talk to the wider Web, and Microsoft sees HTML5 as a means to do that. But Microsoft's increasing focus on HTML5, while welcomed by standards proponents, raises questions about its commitment to Silverlight.
Former Microsoft Rich Platforms product manager Scott Barnes takes that as an ominous sign. "Silverlight is dead," said Barnes, in a video blog post. Barnes went so far as to say the Silverlight team within Microsoft has been split up. Microsoft officials were not immediately able to offer a comment.
Questions about Silverlight notwithstanding, Microsoft's decision to expose Bing to Apple and Android users could pay off. Combined, those platforms hold about 71% of the U.S. market for mobile operating systems, while Windows Phone and Windows Mobile devices hold less than 6%, according to the latest data from Comscore.
That may be why, according to Basu, Microsoft's Bing is now available for Apple and Google-powered devices, and not for Windows Phone 7. The latter, however, is coming--along with a Bing app for Blackberry. "We're working to release the same consistent experience for RIM and Windows Phone 7 devices in the future," said Basu.
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