Bing's iPhone plans (and more)

Bowing to reality, Microsoft is working on a Bing iPhone app, although it won't say when the software will be ready or just which features it will have.

SAN FRANCISCO--Although Microsoft would rather everyone ran out and bought a Windows Mobile phone, the software maker is aware of reality. And, since it wants people to use Bing on their phones, it knows it needs to have software that works on other devices.

"Everyone understands the popularity and the pervasiveness of the platform," said Microsoft principal group program manager David Raissipour, following a Bing event Wednesday. "We are actively working on it."

Raissipour confirmed Microsoft is working on a mobile Bing application that will combine a number of features--more than just mapping and search. However, he declined to say what all of those features are or when the software will be ready.

I probed as to whether some of the cool mapping technology Microsoft showed on Wednesday might make it onto phones. Raissipour said such mapping requires a rich platform, but could potentially be done without Silverlight, if necessary. So, what about the iPhone?

"It's certainly possible," Raissipour said. "That's a rich platform."

Microsoft already has native mobile applications for many Windows Mobile phones, BlackBerry devices, and a number of Verizon feature phones. The company is also exploring what it might be able to do on Android, particularly on non-Google branded Android devices. In the meantime, the company has its mobile Web site.

I also had a chance to catch up with overall search engineering chief Satya Nadella to ask some overall Bing questions.

In particular, I wanted to see just how many people are actively choosing to go to, as opposed to just searching via MSN or a browser tool bar. With Bing's predecessor, Live Search, very few people actually went to the page.

"It's still a small percentage," Nadella said, but noted that it has succeeded in getting a fan base, which was a key early goal of the product.

When it comes to the data that Microsoft is including at the top of some search results, in general, Nadella said Microsoft is not paying for the content, nor are companies paying to get their information included.

The benefit to Microsoft is that it displays more useful results while content providers get a link high up in the results page. "It's kind of like SEO [Search Engine Optimization] for structured data," Nadella said. As for those new mapping abilities, I encourage you to check them out for yourself and read Tom Krazit's piece. In addition, though, here's a video I did with Microsoft's Blaise Aguera y Arcas, where he walks through the new features.

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