Bing for iPad a 'killer app,' says analyst

Microsoft's first iPad app "effectively is a browser"

Microsoft today launched Bing for iPad, the company's first app for Apple's tablet.

One analyst called it a "killer app" that beats Google's "hands down."

Bing for iPad, which follows by more than a year the December 2009 debut of a similar app for the iPhone and iPod Touch, lets users search the Web with Microsoft's engine, displays the resulting pages and also aggregates a wide range of Web content within its wrapper.

But it's not a browser, at least officially, which gave Microsoft the in to the App Store: Apple bars browsers not built on the open-source WebKit rendering engine from its online app market.

Content is displayed within the Bing app, and does not open within the iPad's native browser, Safari.

"This is a killer app," said Greg Sterling, an analyst with Sterling Market Intelligence. "There's lots of information, it's optimized for the tablet and you can browse very easily. Bing did a really terrific job with this."

Bing for iPad offers traditional search, but really plays to the tablet's strength as an aggregator, said Sterling, who pointed out the content tiles at the bottom of the app's home screen. Those tiles offer access to more information on topics from news and weather to movies and finance.

News results, for example, are displayed in a grid format, with a touch on any of the resulting tiles opening up the news story.

In that regard, Bing for iPad is more than search, one of the reasons why Sterling gave it the thumbs up over Google's tablet app.

"It sort of operates like a browser," said Sterling, who also blogs on the Search Engine Land site. "Effectively, from a consumer's standpoint, it is a browser."

Bing, which has struggled to compete against Google in the search market, accounted for 13.6 per cent of the market in February, according to comScore. When Yahoo's share is added to Bing's -- the former now uses the latter's engine to deliver results -- the pair own a 29.7 per cent share, less than half of Google's 65.4 per cent.

Sterling wasn't surprised that Microsoft is aggressively promoting Bing, including on devices by its rivals, Apple and Google.

"That's a culture shift for the company," Sterling said. "Their embrace of the iPhone and iPad>, and Android, is smart, because Bing needs to decouple from the Windows platform."

Google also offers a free iPad app, but it focuses almost entirely on search, said Sterling. "Between Google's and Bing's, [the latter] wins hands down," he said. "The tablet shows off Bing's strengths better than the Web. Bing is very visually rich, and the tablet showcases that very, very effectively."

Bing for iPad can be downloaded free-of-charge from the iPad, or through iTunes on a Mac or PC, then transferred to the tablet using the music software's synchronization tool.

Bing for iPad displays its News content in a grid format.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile apps and services in Computerworld's Mobile Apps and Services Topic Center.

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