Microsoft Upgrades Bing

Microsoft unveiled on Wednesday (Dec. 15) a spate of new features and functions aimed at differentiating its fledgling search engine Bing from Google. The announcement includes more localized content and an expansion of its partnership with Facebook.

On the local front, users can now book restaurant reservations directly on Bing search results pages through a partnership with Opentable. Similarly, consumers can buy concert tickets as part of an integrated partnership with FanSnap.

As for social media, now Bing will identify which links on its main search page have previously been “liked” by a user’s Facebook friends. This follows an earlier deal to include information within Bing searches on what friends “like” on Facebook.

Bing is also looking to distance itself from Google in the mobile space. Microsoft executives announced that iPhone users can now employ their cameras to “search” using a product called Bing Vision. For example, users can focus their camera on a particular object, and Bing will identify text or a barcode appearing on that object and then deliver relevant search results.

Bing’s mobile product also enables users to check in via location-based services like Facebook and Foursquare directly from the Bing homepage or a local listings page. Users can also make instant restaurant reservations (through a deal with Opentable), and order takeout (through a integration with Grubhub) via the Bing app. 

Additionally, Bing for Mobile now offers what it claims to be real-time transit predictions for commuters in Boston, San Francisco and Seattle.

According to the latest comScore report, Bing handled 11.8 percent of all searches in the U.S. in November, while Google handled 66.3 percent.