Three quarters of us use search to look for entertainment online, said Yusuf Mehdi, SVP of Microsoft's Bing search engine in a blog post yesterday. This was the pretext for his announcement that Microsoft has released a major new update to Bing, with a focus on entertainment.
Probably the most significant addition is the integration of Zune in order to offer full-length streaming of over five million songs. It will be restricted to one play per user, after which 30 second preview will continue to be available. There will be links to not just Zune, but iTunes and Amazon to buy the tracks and Microsoft has also added a lyrics search result feature.
The next most significant addition concerns TV. According to Bing more than 30 percent of people watch all of their TV episodes online, which seems quite high. So Bing has collated episodes from over 1,500 TV shows in order to make them easier to find and watch. It is also getting TV listings information from local providers to make it easier to plan TV viewing.
The other areas of entertainment addressed include gaming, with the addition of nearly 100 casual games made available to download directly from Bing searches and optimised searches for games reviews, walkthroughs, etc. For movies, Bing aims to make it easier to go to the pictures by collating local cinema details, social comments and Bing Maps stuff.
To us these additions possibly have Windows Phone 7 and Google TV in mind. One of the ways in which Microsoft hopes its next-generation mobile operating system will differentiate itself is through entertainment, with the integration of cloud services from Zune and X-Box Live. These new features will help WP7 users to get the most out of its entertainment features.
Meanwhile, most of the talk after the Google TV announcement concerned what Apple was going to offer in response. But there's no way Microsoft is going to let itself be shut out of the Internet TV game, and the inclusion of TV listings into Bing could be a move towards Bing TV.