announced the availability of five new Bing apps for its Office 2013 and Office 365 products. The apps' January 31 arrival came on the heels of the refreshed Office products themselves, which were released on January 29 as both traditional standalone purchases and a subscription-based service.
It remains to be seen how customers will take to the new model, in which users pay perpetual fees in exchange for enhanced cloud functionality, greater license flexibility and access to the latest releases. Any apprehensions about subscription costs, though, won't carry over to the new Bing products, as Microsoft has offered them for free. The apps are intended to inject search functionality into Word and Excel document-creating. They join similar Bing tools already available for Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox.
Bing Maps for Office allows Excel users to plot location data onto live, interactive Bing maps. It includes data visualization options, such as translating various column values into different-sized shapes on the map. Users can use either a mouse or touch-based gestures to manipulate the map's view, which can be pinched in to the street level or zoomed out to a bird's eye perspective.
[ For more on Microsoft's recent earnings, see Microsoft's Mixed Earnings: Record Revenue, Drop In Profit. ]
Bing Finance for Office is a beta product that allows users to create finance portfolio tables in Excel. Stock symbols can be input and fields can be customized to display a wide range of content, including live price updates.
Bing News Search for Office lets users search for news and videos from within Word documents. Results can be inserted into the document with a single click and favorite searches can be saved for later use.
Bing Dictionary for Office ensures that Word's spell-check tools include the latest spellings and definitions. If a user doesn't know how to spell a word, he or she can type phonetically and Bing will offer suggestions. The app currently supports only English-language words.
The last of the five new offerings, Bing Image Search for Office allows users to launch a Web search from within Word by typing into a search box or by selecting text within the document. The app can also insert search returns into the document with a single click.
According to Microsoft's most recent quarterly earnings, the company's Online Services Division, which is responsible for Bing, posted a mixed performance, increasing its revenue but remaining unprofitable overall. The new Bing apps won't change this picture on their own, but they offer synergies that could help Microsoft's search engine gain market share. Though some users have turned to alternatives such as GoogleDocs and OpenOffice, the Office suite is still among the business world's most ubiquitous and essential tools. If the new apps socialize users to rely on Bing, Microsoft could see incremental gains. According to the most recent numbers from data analytics firm comScore, Bing has achieved positive growth of late but remains a distant second to Google.
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