Microsoft enlists Bing to enhance Windows 8.1 apps

Microsoft has launched a portal to help developers incorporate Bing functionality into their own apps

In its ongoing challenge to attract more users to Windows 8, Microsoft is offering bits of its Bing Internet search service to boost the functionality of third-party Windows Store applications.

"We're opening up Bing as an application development platform so you can use all this investment we've put into crawling the Web and understanding entities [to] build that richness into your own applications running on top of Windows," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Wednesday before a crowd of developers at the company's Build conference in San Francisco.

To this end, the company has launched a developer portal that details a collection of APIs (application programming interfaces) Bing offers. These services can be embedded in Windows Store apps, providing functionality such as optical character recognition (OCR), language translation and displaying geographically situated, three-dimensional maps and aerial photographs.

The Bing services are a "great new addition to the broader Microsoft platform and likely to enable new styles of applications," wrote Al Hilwa, an IDC program director covering application development tools, by email from the Build conference.

Microsoft has been increasingly embedding Bing functionality into its own products, such as Windows 8, Windows Phone and the Xbox. Windows 8.1, for instance, provides a unified search function that can execute a single search across the device's directories, the user's files on Microsoft's SkyDrive service, and the Internet. Microsoft has also prepared two Bing-powered apps for its Windows 8.1 update: a food and drink app and a health and fitness app, both of which draw from Bing's searching and mapping capabilities to offer personalized recommendations and situational awareness.

The new APIs will offer some of this functionality for third-party apps.

The Bing Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Control, available as a customer technical preview, provides OCR capability, an interface with a device's camera, and even a basic user interface. The user snaps a photo that is sent to Bing, which returns the extracted text. During the keynote at Build, which was available via a spotty webcast, Microsoft Vice President of Online Services Gurdeep Singh Pall demonstrated how this service could be used to harvest data from a business card.

Pall also demonstrated how the OCR service can be linked with the new Translator Control, which can translate the text among 40 different languages. He showed off the new text-to-speech control, which provides a way for users to issue commands to their apps vocally, as well as have the apps respond vocally.

"In the coming decade, apps will have eyes, ears and will have a mouth," Pall said.

The company also unveiled some new services that could be used to build immersive or augmented reality interfaces showing users what is around them.

The Bing Entity API, which will be available to developers within the next few months, identifies nearby landmarks and types of businesses that apps can use to offer location-specific information to their users. Microsoft has also released a SDK (software development kit) that shows developers how to embed Bing maps and 3D aerial views of places into their apps. Bing can also provide mapping, routing, and traffic information for these maps as well.

The site also offers APIs for executing Bing searches, for finding synonyms, for tracking website usage and for populating an app or website with ads.

According to Microsoft, Bing executes about 17.4 percent of all searches conducted in the U.S.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Development toolsapplication developmentWeb services developmentMicrosoftsoftwareinternetsearch engines

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?