Bing Updates: Let The Search Engine Make Decisions For You

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Microsoft officially launched Bing 2.0 Wednesday night with changes to both their online search engine and mobile phone apps. Bing has been trying to compete against Google for dominance since it launched in June 2009, particularly by calling their program a “decision engine.” And that’s what these upgrades mostly are: additional features to help you try to make a faster decision.

Here’s a summary of the major changes, courtesy of Search Engine Land:

ONLINE

Further Integration With Facebook

Search results will now show you which links were “liked” by your friends.

Convenience By Clicking

Looking for a restaurant? Want to go to a concert? Now Bing will not only bring up the links you are looking for, but with partnerships they will also help you make that reservation or purchase that ticket. OpenTable will aid in booking reservations from the restaurant details page, and FanSnap will allow people to purchase tickets to a concert or sporting event through the events details page. Interior Views, which will launch in Seattle, San Francisco and Boston, will give users more detailed information on business profile pages. Searchers can get a 360-degree panoramic view inside local restaurants and businesses just by looking for the name of the place.

Mapping Your Route

Bing Maps

To compete against Google Maps, the directions function will highlight the differences between major and minor city streets so it’s easier to see instead of guessing which is the main street. Venue maps will increase in detail as well, including a directory of the place such as stores in the shopping mall.

On the new AJAX site, transit directions will be launched in the following major metropolitan areas: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Newark Metro Area, New York Metro Area, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver BC, and Washington DC. You can choose your departure time and find the best possible way to get there on public transpiration and some alternate options. The left side of the AJAX site will show Bing Maps’ key features – directions, traffic, business lookup, and map apps. (More on Techland: Microsoft Adds Mall Maps to Bing)

Air Travel

The Flight Summary feature will help you find estimated airfares. Users input the destination city and date, and Bing will approximate the cost of the trip before you actually really search online for the best deal. Destination Pages will show users all the key information they need to know about a city including flights and hotels, images, attractions, events, maps and a weather overview for your visit.

Looking For the Perfect Picture

Additional Categories is back with each picture search, so you can see other topics that might also reveal the picture you are looking for. The revamped Collage Answers gives you more details for items that fall in the entertainment vertical which includes music, movies TV and games. The landing pages for movies and television shows will now feature organizational tabs showing additional information such as trailers, reviews and showtimes. There will also be extended TV listings and episode guides that will be show in in search results, along with TV clips and show information.

MOBILE PHONE

iPhone App Upgrades

Save Time On Your Search

There’s going to be Autosuggest, a function where Bing will point out query strings to help users plan an entire experience. For example, a search for a restaurant might pull up local shows or events that are going on near by that place. With the integration of Opentable and Grubhub into Bing for Mobile, once you find your restaurant of choice, you can reserve a table or order takeout without leaving the app. You can share your plans via a partnership Facebook and your friends can comment or join your plans.

Search By Picture

Searching can also be done with the help of you camera with the help of Bing Vision.  Just focus on an object – you don’t need to take a picture – and Bing will find related text and present a highlighter tool which you can select words from for the search. Pointing your camera at a barcodes will bring product results.

Check In Once In A While

Bing will coordinate with the check-in functions of via Facebook, foursquare or Windows Live Activity Stream. You can also create a “to-do” list, which allows you set reminders based on when you get near a specific location. Real-time transit updates for Boston, San Francisco and Seattle will be integrated as well in the app

Android App Upgrades

Search Across the Board

The Search Widget will allow you to search contacts, apps, audio files or the Web and includes ability to search third party apps that register with the Bing database. You can share content you find with friends by using any of your apps that can accept and share content (images, URLs, etc.). Opentable and Grubhub integration with Bing for Mobile is available just like on the iPhone.

All these updates sound complicated but potentially useful. The only problem I foresee is not having a choice can be annoying. If Bing only features results from companies they have partnered with, what happens when I decide I want to go off the grid and use another company like StubHub instead of FanSnap or a non-featured airline carrier just because I have miles from them? I guess the idea behind all the changes is that you won’t need to use anything else because Bing will do everything for you more efficiently, but sometimes it’s just nice to have personal choice.

More on TIME.com:

Bad Company: How Poor Service Upped One Site’s Google Rank

Yahoo! Clues Teaches You About Searching Online

Steve Jobs Disses BlackBerry, Google, and 7-inch Tablets

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