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Windows Phone Mango Update Adds Bing features

Windows Phone’s “Mango” update will offer Bing Audio, augmented reality, text dictation and audio navigation

Windows Phone’s upcoming “Mango” update will add some previously unannounced features, according to an online report.

The Windows Phone Dev Podcast interviewed Brandon Watson, director of developer experience for Windows Phone, as part of a podcast posted 8 May. In the course of the show, it was revealed that the Mango update (also known as Windows Phone version 7.5) will include Bing Audio, which allows a smartphone to identify any songs playing in the vicinity, and Bing Vision, an augmented-reality feature that will let a smartphone scan barcodes, QR Codes and the like.

Windows Phone 7.5 will also include a turn-by-turn navigation feature, complete with voice guidance, and the ability to dictate SMS texts.

Mango will arrive on the Windows Phone platform sometime in the latter half of 2011, although an exact release date remains unclear. As previously announced, it will deliver Windows Phone’s version of multitasking, allowing smartphones to download new applications and content in the background, and stream music via one application while working in another. It will also feature the faster Internet Explorer 9.

Even as Microsoft works on producing Mango, it is also prepping developers for the release of updated Windows Phone Developer Tools, which will (at least in theory) allow for the creation of more integrated and high-performance applications. Platform features include application multitasking for background processing, audio and file transfer, and fast application processing, in addition to the ability to leverage augmented reality experiences.

A long road ahead

Microsoft could have a long road ahead as it pushes for greater Windows Phone adoption among consumers. New data from The Nielsen Company suggests that 6 percent of consumers indicated they wanted a Windows Mobile/Windows Phone 7 smartphone as their next device, compared with 31 percent for Android, 30 percent for Apple’s iOS and 11 percent for Research In Motion’s BlackBerry.

That’s paired with numbers from other research firms suggesting Windows Phone, at least in its first half-year of release, retains a small share of the overall smartphone market: in a May 6 note, for example, comScore suggested that Microsoft held 7.5 percent of the US smartphone market in March 2011, a dip from 8.4 percent in December 2010. That placed the company fourth behind Google, RIM and Apple.

Microsoft is also trying to desperately leave behind the increasingly antiquated (and fragmented) Windows Mobile, which may be exerting a drag on the company’s overall smartphone market numbers. Microsoft has stayed largely silent on smartphone shipment numbers, save for a January announcement that some 2 million Windows Phone units had shipped from manufacturers to retailers.

Microsoft’s alliance with Nokia, which will see Windows Phone ported onto the latter’s hardware, also has the potential to radically alter the smartphone landscape. However, those devices most likely won’t make an appearance before 2012.

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Google News Search Engines

Yahoo Rolls Out Search Direct To Challenge Google

Yahoo Search Direct predictive-search technology is geared to help searchers find answers, not links, faster

Yahoo on 23 March launched Search Direct, a feature that retrieves immediate search results to rival the Google Instant predictive-search technology.

Like Google Instant, Search Direct brings users search results as they type characters, and before they complete a query, hit the search button, or go to a search results page.

The idea is to shave several seconds off all search queries, coaxing users to search more and, ideally for Yahoo, see and click on more ads.

Providing answers

Yahoo executives during the Search Direct launch event at Yahoo’s Sunnyvale, California, headquarters marketed the technique as a move to bring users “answers” instead of the signature blue links search engines typically surface.

Direct Search covers top trending searches, movies, TV, sports teams and players, weather, local, travel, stocks and shopping categories on Yahoo.com. Eventually, the service will include popular music and local listings. Currently in beta for US users only, Search Direct will be available in other Yahoo products and markets later this year.

Direct Search demonstrates Yahoo’s commitment to its users’ search experience despite the fact that Microsoft’s Bing search engine powers its results under a 10-year deal that began last August.

Microsoft pays Yahoo 88 percent of search traffic ad sales to power its rival’s search engine, though Yahoo is free to innovate on the front end.

Catching up with Google

Google thrust the real-time, predictive-search technology into the mainstream last September with Google Instant, which expands on the Google Suggest technology by guessing users’ queries as they begin to type them.

Marissa Mayer, then vice president of search products and user experience for Google, said at the time users tend to spend 9 seconds, on average, entering a search query into Google.

Early on, Instant appeared to boost Google’s search market share, but the company has returned to its usual 65 percent search share range. Yahoo, meanwhile, is hovering around the 16 percent market and is losing share as Bing gains.

Search Engine Land showed how Google Instant beat Search Direct in a handful of quick-and-dirty queries.