Microsoft said it has begun shipping a Bing app for Verizon Wireless’ Android-based mobile phones, and the company is readying the app to run on other U.S. carriers’ Android phones in coming months.
That might seem counterintuitive, given Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) rivalry with Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) in the market for search, business apps, and mobile phone operating systems like the Google-backed, Linux-based Android.
However, for Bing to be successful, it needs to find its way onto as many client devices as possible. After all, despite the sometimes rancorous relations between Microsoft and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), the software giant released a version of its Bing for Mobile app for the iPhone.
This weeks’ deal also broadens Microsoft’s existing relationship with Motorola, which in March said it would bundle Bing on its Android phones worldwide.
“Today we are happy to announce the first official Bing for Mobile Android App available to Verizon customers,” Andy Chu, a spokesperson for Bing for Mobile, said in a post on the Bing Community blog on Monday. “You can now download the free Bing App from your Verizon Wireless Android phones’ Marketplace.”
As mobile handsets increasingly become a primary platform for search, the move signals Microsoft’s willingness to avoid letting a “not invented here” mentality cripple its search ambitions on mobile devices, where Google already has a strong position thanks to the popularity of Android. Industry researcher Gartner reported recently that the mobile OS has seen the most growth during the past year, and that Android has surpassed Apple’s iPhone software to become the third most-common smartphone operating system behind Nokia-backed Symbian and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry.
Like other Bing clients, the new Verizon Wireless app’s home screen displays the image of the day, and users can swipe to look at the images from the previous seven days.
More importantly for Microsoft — which has worked to differentiate Bing through its addition of helpful links and tools beyond plain search results, the Bing app for Android also features voice search to help users find information such as flight times, movies, local listings, traffic, weather, news, and hotel information.
“The Android app also has a pretty smooth mapping feature,” Chu said. “First, Bing will automatically find your current location. You can then easily discover new places by category such as restaurants, banks, theaters and you can choose whether you want walking or driving directions.”
Such features may make the lives of salespeople and executives who travel for a living a little easier. Additionally, given smartphones’ abilities to send and receive mail and transfer files back and forth, mobile clients are beginning to fall under the auspices of enterprise IT staff.
Nor does Microsoft plan to stop with just Verizon’s and Motorola’s Android phones.
“There are plans to expand the Bing for Mobile Android App to devices with other U.S. mobile operators later this year [but] we don’t have specifics to share at this time,” a company spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mail.
Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.