Bing's iPhone app now shows links to other iPhone apps as part of search results, enabling users to run or download those apps directly on their phone.
Described in a blog posted yesterday, Microsoft's goal behind the new feature is to make it easier for users to find iPhone apps directly through the mobile search engine. Though you can of course search Apple's App Store, scouring through the variety of apps that appear to find the right one can sometimes be a challenge.
Further, by using Bing to track down iPhone apps, Microsoft hopes that people running their usual searches will stumble upon apps that they never knew existed but will find useful.
The new feature works in a couple of different ways.
Using a new auto app discovery mode, Bing can find apps in the course of regular search queries. For example, searching for a general topic, such as "hotels" or "movies" will uncover iPhone apps devoted to those subjects. In a search for hotels, Bing might point you to Travelocity's mobile app, while a search for movies would uncover the iPhone apps for Hulu, IMDb, and Moviefone, among others.
You can also run searches to track down specific iPhone apps. For example, searching for the name of an app, such as Angry Birds or Kindle will find those dedicated apps. Also, you can enter more general searches, such as "top iPhone apps" or "ebook apps" to find a list of apps that match those categories.
Links to the apps show up under a dedicated category called App Results amid your regular search results.
The new feature also goes much further than just displaying the name of an app.
If you don't yet have the app and want it, Bing will take you to the App Store on your iPhone where you can download the app directly. If the app is already installed on your iPhone, then tapping on it will let you launch the app right from your search results. But for that option work, the app's developer must have enabled the launch functionality, according to Microsoft, a capability that so far is only in around 50 different apps.
The new mobile app search works only on Bing's iPhone version. The dedicated Bing for iPad app doesn't support the feature, though you can use the iPhone version on an iPad as well as an iPod Touch. The feature also works on Bing's mobile site.