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Microsoft's Bing bods exploit fanbois' Apple maps misery

Redmond chases after lost and stumbling iPhone punters

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Microsoft’s Bing team is taking advantage of Apple’s map app misery to make a push for Redmond's own cartographic efforts.

In a cheeky blog post here, Microsoft invites iPhone 5 users to use Bing Maps to get around instead of Apple’s own shoddy substitute for Google Maps.

The blog is titled Just Got a New Phone? Time to Download the Bing App, and avoids explicitly naming the iPhone 5, which launched last week, while making its point clear. Microsoft says:

It’s the time of year when new phones are hitting the market. You may be holding a brand new smartphone and wondering which apps have the essential search and mapping functionality you need. Well, you’re in luck because Bing has you covered.

With the Bing App for iPhone, we can help you find what you need and help you get there – whether it’s down the street, on the other side of the world, or somewhere in between

Apple’s decision to shoot itself in the foot over maps could be a seminal moment for Bing Maps. Microsoft has been painstakingly building and buffing Bing Maps for six years, from distinguishing the look to Google Maps to integrating it with Bing search for everything from local film times or national news to traffic flow and travel booking.

The maps are certainly exquisite to look at, even compared to Google Maps, and never mind the dark-and-grainy satellite passing over North Korea look of Apple's Maps. They have been assembled using different Microsoft technologies and research. Bing Maps also includes DeepZoom, a Microsoft technology previously known as Sea Dragon, for continuous drilling down into an in image while retaining crystal-sharp resolution and detail.

Unlike Apple’s maps, there’s a very good chance you’ll actually find your destination: Microsoft Maps uses public maps using sources such as the US Geological Survey.

All this is combined with Microsoft’s MapPoint to integrate maps into third parties apps.

For developers and partners, Microsoft has Bing Maps iOS control in Objective-C for embedding maps into a native iOS application. This lets you add overlays like push buttons to maps and provides the ability to pull back contextual information on a chosen point in a map.

The big question until now had been, that with Google Maps already there, why bother? Bing Maps, like Bing, has been a tragic story of coming to the game late with something that certainly looks and feels high quality when the market's already happy with what it's got. Open almost any website that uses a map in some way and Google will have got there first. Rare, and slightly unsettling to those of use who find them, is the website whose business people or devs have decided to go with Bing Maps.

Deployment on mobile devices and appealing to disgruntled iPhone 5 users could be the answer, and one of Bing Maps' best opportunities.

Microsoft’s biggest partner, Nokia, isn’t using Bing Maps – it has its own Ovi service. Not that it would make much difference if Nokia had bought into Bing, given Nokia’s falling market share and the 3 per cent share of the US market held by Windows Phone at the moment.

Google’s Android uses Google’s Maps, and Android – thanks in large part to Samsung's Galaxy – is currently the world’s most popular smartphone pick.

That means Microsoft would need to rely on the kindness of other Windows Phone partners to also select Bing Maps with the operating system.

With Apple coming second to Android, grabbing the attention of the iPhone 5 posse might be Bing Maps' best bet. If Microsoft cares, though, it should to do more to woo them than merely penning a slightly sarky blog post on a relatively obscure Microsoft web page. ®

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