To give Bing a boost, Microsoft's bringing in the muscle of its modest entertainment empire.
New features on the Bing search engine allow users to stream music, watch videos and play games all within the Bing domain. The changes are going live now, though some features will take days or weeks to appear.
For music, Bing now takes a page from Google and streams more than 5 million tracks directly from the browser. For example, a search for "Lady Gaga" brings up four tracks powered by Zune, along with a link for lyrics. Users can listen to entire songs once, then 30-second samples after that. In addition to streaming music, Bing also lists concerts and news atop the usual list of search results.
Searching for certain television shows also returns links to full episodes. I looked for NCIS, one of the shows that Bing now hosts on its own domain, and got four thumbnail video links above the fold, each leading to a full episode. Microsoft says it's also working to provide local TV listings, which should go live in a couple of weeks.
Gamers will also get a helping hand if they search for specific titles in Microsoft's online gaming portal. For instance, a search for "Bejeweled" brings up a short description of the game, a tiny screenshot and a link to "Play Now."
Microsoft also added theater listings and other information for planning a movie night, but movies are notably absent.
I think Microsoft is on the right track with these changes. If I was actually looking to play Bejeweled or watch an episode of NCIS, searching on Google would've revealed more cryptic results, and I would've had to dig through a couple of links or refine my search. The idea behind Bing Entertainment is to act like a content portal without actually being one. Because Internet users access so much by search, this seems like a natural fit.
Now, Bing just needs more. With the exception of music, I had to search for very specific terms just to see Bing's new features; typing random shows or games into the search bar probably won't yield any new results. Microsoft has the system in place for Bing to become a top-notch entertainment portal. All it needs now is the content.