Microsoft will release its first full-featured Bing search client for Android in the next six weeks, matching the search capabilities that Microsoft offers for the iPhone, company executives said Tuesday.
Microsoft already offers a basic Bing client for Android, but it's geared mainly toward mapping tasks. The new client will have features similar to those in the desktop version of Bing.com, including full Web, image and news search.
The Android client was announced as Bing continues to gradually add more users. Since Microsoft launched Bing in June last year, the company's share of the search market has increased by almost 5 percentage points, according to Satya Nadella, senior vice president for Microsoft's online services division. Its Bing client for the iPhone has been downloaded more than 4 million times, he said.
Microsoft Web sites accounted for 12.7 percent of searches performed last month, he said, citing new figures from comScore. Microsoft is encouraged by the growth, Nadella said, but he acknowledged that the company still lags far behind Google, which accounted for 62.6 percent of searches. Yahoo sites accounted for 18.9 percent.
"None of us are confused: We're a very low-share player," he said. "We've barely got into double digits and it's a long road."
Meanwhile, Microsoft is rolling out new features for Bing to try and close the gap. Executives highlighted some of the changes made during the past six months, emphasizing how Bing aims to help users complete tasks more quickly rather than simply displaying search results.
For instance, when a user searches for the weather, Bing presents weather forecasts from several weather sites and displays them on a single page. Searching for a pop star's music turns up a list of songs that can be purchased or streamed, along with the lyrics. Executives said Bing boasts a library of 5 million songs.
Microsoft is also trying to improve Bing's mapping functions. Users who search for a museum, zoo or some other public place will soon be able to zoom in on a map of the interior when it's available, showing the layout. Third-party applications are also being added, including one nifty app that lets users plug in the time they need a parking space, and spits back a list of local garages with their prices, to help find the cheapest place to park.
Executives pointed to the "visual richness" of Bing.com as one factor that might be helping the site lure new users. It's also continuing to enhance some basic capabilities there, such as auto-complete. If a user in the U.S. types "tar," Bing will not only suggest the Target store but also include a link to it in the drop-down results suggested.
Bing also tries to guess a user's intent based on the context of a search session. If a user searches for Toyota and then later types "cam" during the same search session, Bing will take a guess that the user is searching for the Toyota Camry.
Nadella said Microsoft hopes to maintain its momentum by continuing to add new features to Bing.
"At the end of the day, we have to build a product that more and more heavy users want to use," he said.