Microsoft today introduced new features in its Bing application for the iPhone and iPod Touch that compete head to head with Google Inc., as the software giant works to make up ground in the search and mobile spaces.
Most noticeably, the Redmond, Wash. company said in its corporate blog post that the new version of its search app would include visual scanning features similar to those in Google's Goggles app, which for now only works on smart phones that run on its Android platform.
"Use the camera on your iPhone to scan the barcode of any product or the cover art of books, CDs, DVDs, or video games," the Microsoft post reads. "You'll see descriptions, and often reviews, prices, and links to merchant websites. This feature makes it easy to comparison shop for your favorite products or just find a place to buy that book your friend won't shut up about."
By way of comparison, Goggles can, in many cases, recognize and provide information about things like landmarks, wine labels, barcodes and book titles. It can also automatically store or dial up contact information pulled from a business card, or jump to a URL that appears in a photo.
When The Chronicle ran a story last month about visual search, Microsoft declined to discuss what it was doing in this realm.
But it was clear the company was at work on the problem. At its public TechFair in Mountain View earlier in May, a Microsoft researcher showed off software that allowed the user to drag and drop an image into the application that instantly pulled up pictures with similar characteristics.
The upgraded Bing app also includes new social features, including the ability to show status updates from a user's friends on Facebook and Twitter, as well as relevant search results from within their social networks.
Finally, Microsoft said the new app includes improvements to its Movies and Shopping sections, including more video trailers, show times, product prices and store links.
Microsoft has been laser focused on getting its search engine onto mobile platforms. The company offered players of the popular mobile music game Tap Tap Revenge a free song if they downloaded Bing onto their iPhone or iPad. Similarly, anyone who recently sampled a free Microsoft application that streams the top 100 songs for every year back to 1947 was gently but persistently reminded to download the Bing app as well (even, it should be noted, if they'd already done so).