Microsoft has announced the availability of five new Bing apps for its Office 2013 and Office 365 products in an attempt to help the currently sluggish Bing model to gain more favorability with more new users. The new apps' availability follows right behind the recent Bing release of its refreshed Office products which were released at the end of January as both traditional standalone purchases and a subscription-based service too. Although Bing obviously hopes the move will attract more users and help it grow, it remains to be seen just how consumers will react to the new model that requires the users to pay ongoing fees in exchange for some aspects of enhanced cloud functionality, greater license flexibility and greater access to the latest releases.
Any worries about the effect of the new subscription costs won't affect the new Bing products much because Microsoft has offered them all for free. The new apps are intended to boost the search functionality of Word and Excel document-creating tools, and they are similar to the Bing tools already available for Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox. Bing Maps for Office will now permit Excel users to plot location data onto live, interactive Bing maps, and it will include several data visualization options, like the ability to translate Excel column values into different-sized shapes onto a map where the users can employ either a mouse or touch-based movements to manipulate the map's view scale, which can be pinched down to show street level detail or zoomed out for a flyover perspective.
Other apps include Bing Finance for Office that is a beta product that allows users to create their own financial portfolio tables in Excel. Stock symbols can even be input and the fields can be customized to display the user’s choice of content, including live price updates. Bing News Search for Office will allow users to search for news and videos inside Word documents and the results can be added to a document with the single click of a mouse and their favorite searches can then be saved for later use. The Bing Dictionary for Office app updates Word's spell-check tools to make sure it contains the most modern spellings and definitions. The dictionary tool currently only supports the English-language, but users who don’t know the exact spelling of a word can just type it phonetically and Bing will offer corrected spelling suggestions. The last of five new offerings, Bing Image Search for Office will allow users to launch a Web search from within a Word document by typing words into a search box or by selecting specific text within a document. The Image Search app can also put search returns into a document with a single mouse click.
Microsoft hopes these new Bing apps will be a positive way to help Microsoft's relatively new search engine gain more market share, as even though Bing has seen some decent growth over the last 12 months, it still remains a very distant second to Google’s much more popular Search offerings.