Machines that go 'Bing!' now include your iPad.
Microsoft's search tool has surfaced on the iOS App Store, and a first look at Bing for iPad (free) shows it to be a solid and well-designed competitor to Google and the parade of news, weather and search apps that have appeared for Apple's tablet in the last year. The app has been available for iPhone and iPod touch for quite a while and is now in version 2.1.
Although there's probably no truth to the rumor that Bing stands for "Bing is not Google," the search service has been steadily gaining market share (usually at the expense of Yahoo!) since it first appeared in 2009. The iPad app should help Microsoft's plans for domination of the search world and give them a good solid grounding in how to design apps for future Windows-based tablets.
Launching the app displays a changing photo, with small transparent squares on it that appear when you tap on the picture. Each of those squares links to a search result for a fun topic; today's photo of the John Day Fossil Beds in Oregon had links to a map, a paleontology song by They Might Be Giants and a gallery of beautiful photos of the area.
The bottom of the app presents small boxes displaying weather, news, maps, movies, trends and finance. Tapping and holding those boxes provides a way for you to re-order them any way you want, while a single tap launches another screen.
The weather screen shows current and future weather for your location, and it's easy to add and save other locations for reference. A tap on the finance box simply provides an edit field for adding or deleting stocks or indices you wish to track, and the box shows up to the minute information throughout the trading day.
While I deleted The Daily from my iPad almost immediately, I might keep Bing on here for a while. The news page displays top stories and world, US, business, political, entertainment, sports, science and technology, and health news in a simple grid format. Tapping any of the stories takes you to the appropriate web page for further detail. I like the variety of sources that Bing displayed. I was also happy with the fact that news search results displayed stories in the same grid format -- I hated the fact that I could not read local news in The Daily, while Bing makes it easy to grab that information, display it, and then give me a way to open and read those stories that interest me.
Bing includes a way to search by voice. A tap on a microphone icon at the top of the display brings up a "listening" window, and a voice search for "Apple Computer" brought up page after page of Apple-related news without once displaying an article about the fruit.
There are a few things about the app that could use some improvement. For example, it crashed twice during my testing for no discernible reason, and it's apparent that Microsoft still doesn't fully understand multi-touch gestures, considering the odd ways that swiping is used.
Still, for a 1.0 release of an app, Bing for iPad seems well thought-out and executed, and iPad owners should give it a place on their devices. Future releases should work out the few bugs and UI inconsistencies, leading to a powerful search and news tool for the iPad platform.