Earlier today, Microsoft’s Bing team has presented their latest developer tools at the BUILD conference which brings the Microsoft development community together for a few days in San Francisco. In the “demo app”, Bing engineers showed how developers could use new Bing application programming interfaces (APIs) to mine into Bing’s Translation services, Web Index and Relevance information, access Entities and Knowledge that relates to a search request, use new user interface components and access high-resolution Maps and buildings information.
A very cool demo
The live demo (watch the video above) shows an app built for demonstration purposes. It starts with a search, and shows the different aspects of the APIs as listed above. The 3D maps that are automatically generated from aerial photos do look very good by the way. While building may have dents here and there, it is extremely hard to get this level of quality without any human intervention, and we have to keep in mind that the data storage per “square meter” is probably limited as well, since the whole world would need to be covered — one day.
The demonstration had a simple goal: convince developers that they can build new kinds of apps or vastly improve existing apps with the help of Bing’s vast amount of data and advanced algorithms. I have to say that the demo was very convincing and it was received with enthusiasm by the attendance.
Will developers bite? Maybe… how much does it cost?
It is clear that very few companies would ever have the means to build this kind of capabilities in-house, it does not automatically mean that developers would use it. It may be undeniable that having “more access” to relevant data is progress but from a developer’s perspective, the question is simple: “how much money can I make by using this? How much does it cost?”
And that is a very good question… Microsoft is introducing some level of free service for those who want to try, and in general, there’s enough in the free tiers to develop and possibly even launch a beta. However, developers need to have a clear monetization (or caching) strategy in order to pay for those API calls when their apps meet success. For more information, you can head to the Bing Maps Platform page and get started with a 90-day trial. Unfortunately, prices are not public at this point but looking at the Bing Search API prices may provide some remote idea.
Web growth is slow? Seek a new market
Assuming that developers can indeed make money with this new platform, I think that this is a very interesting move from Microsoft. Bing continues to slowly gain market share at the expense of Google (to 17.3% from 16.9% as of March 2013, according to ComScore). With Bing as a Platform, Microsoft is now basically opening a second front in the “Search war” by attempting to enroll apps developers. With any luck, this is a land-grabbing move that could create some momentum, but has yet to be proven.
Getting into apps is a great idea, but first, Microsoft needs apps, lots of them. Both Microsoft and Google have various sets of APIs that developers can leverage, and because these are cloud-based APIs, developers can use them on any OS. Right now, Microsoft has taken the initiative, and we will have to see how Google reacts to this. What type of apps do you think would gain the most by using Bing as a platform? One thing is for sure: the development community needed someone to step things up in this area and Microsoft just did. From here, competition between them, Google and possibly Amazon should drive this up to the next level.