Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is plugging a hole in its online portfolio. The company is announcing a remake of Bing Maps, which is getting new “Streetside” images to match Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Maps’ own Street View, along with a new app platform. With the app platform, Bing Maps users can see Tweets on a map corresponding to specific locations, as well as local blog posts related to neighborhoods they are checking out. Microsoft is also integrating its Photosynth technology, which stitches together multiple photos in a 3-D landscape, so that in some cases visitors will actually be able to look inside buildings, as long as people have uploaded interior photos.
The updates come as Microsoft has been widely perceived to be offering a sub-par experience in the mapping arena. To give just one example, while Google has offered street-level views for years, Microsoft did not, offering “aerial” and “bird’s eye” views instead.
Indeed, after Microsoft updated Bing Maps earlier this month to include draggable routes and some other options, Cowen & Co. Analyst Jim Friedland noted that because Google already offered those features, the announcement actually “highlights Google’s substantial lead in the mapping segment” — a market which he said would be “essential for gaining/maintaining share and monetizing location-based searches” as smartphone adoption increased.
Microsoft has been adding new features to Bing since its launch and so far the strategy seems to have worked. Noting that Microsoft’s share of the search market had increased from 8 percent to 9.9 percent over the last six months, Microsoft SVP Yusuf Mehdi said at an investor’s conference Tuesday that those figures were likely ahead of the company’s projections and that so far the company was “pleased.”