Releases hybrid platform to combine native and web apps for Bing for Mobile, while Google updates social network on Android.
Microsoft and Google have both announced initiatives this week which recognize that mobile apps and web sites will be built in a very different way in the era of cloud services and multiscreen content. Microsoft has unveiled one of the most important proofs to date of its commitment to HTML5, Bing for Mobile Apps, while Google has announced a plan to help web site developers optimize their offerings for smartphones.
The new element of the all-important Bing platform - which aims to create a full web experience anchored by the search box, spanning all kinds of devices - is Bing for Mobile Hybrid Apps, which combines the characteristics of native and web apps. It claims it will support the most consistent user experience seen so far, across native and web apps, and across PCs, mobile devices and TVs.
This is because the core Bing app is written in HTML5 and will be the same across all native clients and the web. However, it also recognizes that, so far at least, web services lack some of the rich functionality of apps which are optimized for a specific gadget. The technology will be able to exploit the individual hardware features of a particular device, particularly to enable services like voice search and Bing Vision, which rely on the phone's underlying specs.
Microsoft says the shift of the whole platform towards HTML5 will reduce time to market for developers and enable it to push new Bing features out to all its user base rapidly. Enhancements made when the firm launched the mobile web version of Bing, such as Deals and better transport directions, will be easier to support from day one in new mobile apps, without users have to download updates.
HTML5 will also improve Bing's core search function, says the vendor, allowing outside services to be integrated more easily so that queries can be answered more fully, and without the user having to leave the app. For instance, a consumer can search for theatre tickets and then purchase them from within Bing for Mobile.
Stefan Weitz, senior director of Bing, commented: "That's the idea, how can we begin to unlock the power of these applications so engines like Bing can use them to fulfill a request."
Other additions to the hybrid app include the ability to view maps and lists or directions on a split screen; an expanded search history; and Deals, which integrates location aware offers
aggregated from Groupon, LivingSocial, Tippr and others. Bing for Mobile Hybrid Apps will first appear on the iPhone in the US and UK this month, and on selected US Android models. There will then be versions for WP7 and BlackBerry.
Meanwhile, Google has unveiled GoMo, a scheme to help businesses build mobile optimized web sites. The highlight of the offering is the GoMoMeter, which allows users to enter their site address and get a free analysis of its mobile effectiveness, including measures like load time and how easily it can be read without pinching and zooming. GoMo then provides a list of companies which specialize in mobile web site development, and categorize them by price, time urgency and other criteria.