Bing Keeps Microsoft in the Game

If anyone had doubts that Microsoft can innovate – take a look at what is coming through the Bing group. Now many would argue that what keeps Microsoft in the game is its Windows + Office monopoly lock and its hordes of cash. But Keep-an-Open-Eye  would like to advance the idea that Microsoft is capable of high innovation and no better example is the Bing developers. Lets have a look at what Bing has delivered and the degree of innovation. First Bing delivered innovations to  the Display of Search results  that others had been delivering like

Bing Search Innovations
Ask.com and Copernic, but Google largely ignored those search display advances. But when Bing delivered its innovations and started to gain Search  market share, Google had to and finally did respond:

Google Search – New Post-Bing Look
Well the same thing may be happening in Maps. Here Google has greater strength in the quality of its display options and the underlying API made available to developers. Here is a sample of Google Maps available now:

Latest Google Maps
Note that Google has a robust and pioneering set of options for different map display styles, it has recently enhanced its zoom capability with a rectangular drag-to-zoom tool and has added a sidebar with a wide range of options including user-created maps. In addition, Google has made available to developers a robust Maps API available here.

But look what Bing has managed to do with its Bing Maps:

Destination Maps from Microsoft Research
This is one of 31 Bing Map apps that is available to users. Its a novel map app and has gotten a lot of positive mindshare as indicated by this Gizmodo story despite the fact that the app takes 2-3 minutes to deliver its results [there is a  series of three questions to respond to and then doing the map can take 1-2 minutes depending on the network load]. But the key here is that a)clearly Microsoft through Bing is innovating in the map display vein and b)Bing has made it much simpler than Google with a simple Map Apps button press to find out what mapping apps are available from Bing:

Bing Map options

There are 31 apps and Keep-an-Open-Eye  have tried a whole bunch – let me recommend Photosyth, Distance Calculator, and Urban Graffiti as personal favorites. But be forewarned as in the case of the Destination Maps, a lot of this is new and many still have yet to achieve widespread coverage. But the critical point is that users get a convenient one button press [ Map Apps ] and they have access to most of the Bing mapping applications.

In contrast, determining all the Google Mapping facilities requires a lot of leg work -direct Google search, go to the Google Code Forum  and there are a few blogs specializing in Google Maps. One can go to here to find over a thousand Google mapplets; but there are 4 problems:
1)mapplets have been deprecated and so no more are allowed including updates;
2)there is a huge range of mapplet applicability – many are local to a specific area or use[Minneapolis-St.Paul bike lanes or the world at night];
3)there is a good deal of overlap in some functional categories [local business info for example];
4)it is not clear how developers make money on these mapplets except for a development and upgrade charges to a 3rd party client [if that].
Clearly Google has to rethink 3rd party mapplets and other Google API apps in light of the iPhone and its own Android App Stores.

Summary

Bing keeps the notion of Microsoft not being able to innovate as an out of bounds idea. Redmond’s developers know how to innovate and continue to do so with reasonable aplomb. However, the ability of Microsoft  management to deliver  great innovations in a timely and efficient manner is another question entirely. One has only to look at today’s announcement of the iPhone 4 in comparison to Kin and the yet to appear Mobile Phone 7 to see how being able to stand and deliver is now the number 1 management problem at 1 Microsoft Way.