SiliconFilter

Linked Pages: Bing Now Lets You Curate and Highlight Links that Are About You

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Google may have Google+, but Bing has a close relationship to an ever bigger and more important social network: Facebook. While Google now highlights your Google+ profile when people search for you, Bing has been showing Facebook profiles in its search results for quite a while now. With its new “linked pages” tool, however, Bing is now taking this concept a bit further. Bing now also lets you choose which of your social networking profiles and websites will be featured in a special box at the top of its search results pages when people search for your name. According to Bing, appropriate sites would also include your city, school or employer, for example. This feature is only available in the U.S. so far.

Given that Google has been widely criticized for putting too much emphasis on links to its own social network, it is worth noting that Bing uses your Facebook profile as its main result and then highlights the other pages you curate underneath that. Your Google+ profile, of course, can be one of these links, too.

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Link to Me

Thanks to its close relationship with Facebook, it’s no surprise that Bing uses the social network as the basis for this tool. You use it to log in to Bing to customize your links, for example, and you can also post newly linked sites to your Facebook profile as well. To prevent you from spamming your friends with new links, only the first link of the day will be posted in your Facebook timeline.

The Bing team has decided to go one step further, though, and also allows others to make suggestions for sites you could be connected to. This linking isn’t automatic, though, and Bing will always ask you for permission first.

You can, of course, always remove a link as well.

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Getting Started

Here is how all of this works in practice:

You first log in to Bing’s Linked Pages tool (using your Facebook credentials). Then, Bing will display all the pages it found about you and then lets you choose which of those links are really about you (and not about somebody you share a name with).

Similarly, you can search for your friends (assuming you are also their friend on Facebook) and then suggest sites that are linked to them.

Video

You can see the feature in action below (narrated by an oddly infomercial-sounding Stefan Weitz):

<a data-cke-saved-href="http://video.msn.com/?vid=649129a0-2e8a-40c8-87cc-4c3b003a7dbf&mkt=en-us&src=SLPl:embed::uuids" href="http://video.msn.com/?vid=649129a0-2e8a-40c8-87cc-4c3b003a7dbf&mkt=en-us&src=SLPl:embed::uuids" target="_new" title="Make a Good Search Impression with Bing’s Linked Pages">Video: Make a Good Search Impression with Bing’s Linked Pages</a>



10:15 am


Googlelighting: The Google/Microsoft War of Words Continues, Now in Musical Form

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“Who knows what the future holds for Google Apps.” That’s the question Microsoft would like its customers to ask themselves before switching away from Microsoft Office and to Google’s cloud-based productivity suite. To underline its point, Microsoft just released a new video attack ad that accuses Google of running Google Apps “on the side” even though it has no business meddling in productivity software because it only has “twelve years of experience in ad sales.”

♫ “If Google Apps Meets is Grave, Your Business is Hosed” 

Microsoft, of course, is making fun of Google’s general development mode here by highlighting that Google Apps could potentially change at any point while a company is using it – and while unlikely, it could even potentially kill it off at any point. That, indeed, could be a major point of resistance for large companies that would like to switch to a cloud-based productivity suite like Apps. For them, a change in a widely used piece of software, after all, means retraining staff, for example. And just to highlight this point, the video then kicks into a music number that explains that Google really can’t be trusted to even keep really useful features around.

For the longest time, the rivalry between Google and Microsoft was fought through features and a few sly remarks here and there, but things have gotten rather public and heated between the two companies lately. For the most part, the aggression seems to come out of Redmond, though, with Google trying to defend itself against the accusations on its own blog and in the press.

Microsoft, for example has been taking out ads in national newspapers to highlight the changes Google made to its search engine and privacy policy lately and also happily jumped on the bandwagon of those accusing Google of trying to circumvent the privacy controls of Apple’s Safari and its own Internet Explorer.

Microsoft also launched an anti-Gmail video ad earlier this month:

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9:48 am


MS Office 15: Public Beta is Coming this Summer, Will Include Updated Cloud Apps

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Microsoft today announced that it has started a private “technical preview” of the latest version of its flagship Microsoft Office 15 productivity suite. Currently, this preview version is tested by a number of Microsoft customers under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Despite the NDA, though, chances are we will soon see screenshots and other information about Office 15, but for the time being, Microsoft itself is very quiet about the new version’s features. Come this summer, though, the company plans to launch a public beta that will likely be open to anybody who wants to give the new version a try.

According to Microsoft, “Office 15 is the most ambitious undertaking yet for the Office Division.” For the first time ever, says PJ Hough, the CVP of development in the MS Office Division, Microsoft will “simultaneously update our cloud services, servers, and mobile and PC clients for Office, Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and Visio.” This means that the Office web apps, which are becoming an increasingly important part of Microsoft’s overall productivity suite, will likely be updated in concert with Office 15 and that, as the Next Web’s Alex Wilhelm notes, “Microsoft is working to roll cloud features into every copy of its newest suite.” Currently, only a subset of Office apps features some form of cloud integration.



9:43 am


Microsoft Brings Its SkyDrive Cloud Storage Service to the iPhone

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For quite a while now, SkyDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage service, has sat quietly at the center of the company's Windows Live online services and Windows Phone. Now, however, the company is quickly launching new features for the services. Earlier this week, SkyDrive received a number of major updates, including sharing features for Office documents, an HTML5 uploader and better file management. Today, the SkyDrive team is adding a Windows Phone app and an iPhone client to its feature line-up.

This move clearly shows that Microsoft is not willing to leave the consumer-focused online storage market to startups like Dropbox or Box.net (or Google, for that matter).

SkyDrive for Windows Phone

Skydrive windows phone

SkyDrive, of course, is already deeply integrated into Windows Phone, but this new app provides users with, as Microsoft puts it, "the full SkyDrive experience from Windows Phone, including tasks like browsing their entire SkyDrive, sharing links to folders or files, deleting files, and creating folders." The new app is available worldwide and should be in the Windows Phone now.

SkyDrive for iOS

As for iOS users, Microsoft notes that "not everyone who relies on SkyDrive for sharing photos or accessing Office documents uses Windows Phone… yet." I have to give Microsoft some props for making more and more of its products available on iOS (though Android users are still out of luck). With OneNote and Bing, for example, the company made its first (tepid) steps onto iOS quite a while ago, but the real push towards launching apps for Apple's mobile operating system seems to have started now.

SkyDrive for the iPhone is now available in Apple's app store and allows SkyDrive users to "access all of their files in SkyDrive, create folders, delete files, and share links to folders and files directly using the Mail app."

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6:45 pm


Microsoft Beats Google in Schools, Is Now the Most Popular Cloud Productivity Service for Education

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When it comes to cloud productivity services and education, it’s easy to think that Google is the only game in town. Google, after all, seems to make an announcement every time a new school signs up for Google Apps for Education. Microsoft, however, has been quietly expanding its reach in the education market with [email protected] over the last few years. Today the company announced that its cloud-based service for schools is now “the most widely used cloud productivity service for education.” [email protected] grew 100% year-over-year compared to last year and now has 22 million users.  Google, in comparison, has signed up 15 million students, faculty and staff for Google Apps for Education.

live_at_edu_hat_logo[email protected] is actually currently in the process of transitioning to becoming Office 365 for Education to keep it on par with Microsoft’s other cloud-based productivity offerings. Office 365 for Education includes support for all the regular Office Web Apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote), as well as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. Microsoft also stressed that school can use its tools to do more than just manage documents and email online. With Lync, Office 365 for Education also includes tools for holding virtual classes and online meetings, for example.

Microsoft offers 5 different plans that schools can offer their students, ranging from basic free accounts for students and school, to more fully-featured suites that start at $6/month.



7:06 pm


Hotmail Launches Improved Email Flagging

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Managing email is something very few people enjoy. Over time, though, a few tactics for keeping the steady flow of messages under control have proven quite useful. Using flags or stars to mark important messages, for example, has become one of those tactics that most of us use to keep our inboxes in working order. With the latest release of Windows Live Hotmail, Microsoft thinks it has found a way to improve email flags for its users – though most Gmail users will likely be familiar with this system already. Now, when you flag a message in Hotmail, the email will be pinned at the top of your inbox. This is quite similar to Gmail, which also allows you to create a section for starred messages (and provides you with a bit more flexibility for setting up your inbox, too).

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As Dick Craddock, Microsoft’s group program manager for Hotmail, notes, until now, “flagging a message still leaves it in the message list, which can keep your Inbox cluttered.” The new behavior, which moves flagged messages to the top of your inbox, should make it easier to keep track of important messages without adding clutter to your inbox.

For those who aren’t interested in this behavior, Microsoft also offers a way to turn this feature off by simply closing the area with the flagged messages at the top of your Hotmail inbox.

Some New Features for Power Users

While this new behavior for flagged messages isn’t too exciting as it mainly copies existing systems, Microsoft is also introducing some new features for power users that are pretty interesting in their own right: custom Quick Views and customized Instant Actions.

For a while now, Hotmail has offered Quick Views as an easy way to see emails that include pictures, documents or shipping notifications. These features allow you to quickly create new categories like “For Review” for incoming emails. Once you have these features set up, it only takes one click to pin these emails with custom categories at the top of your email list or to find them in your custom Quick Views inbox. The Microsoft Blog features a detailed description for setting this up.

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6:55 pm


War of the Halloween Videos: Google Goes for Cute, Microsoft Bets on Horror

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I guess there are three ways to approach Halloween: you can go for cute, scary or sexy. Every year, both Google and Microsoft like to produce something Halloween-themed and this year is no exception. As in so many other areas of their competing businesses, the difference between their attempts to bring some Halloween fun to the Internet couldn’t be more different: Google produced a family-friendly video-doodle of its employees carving pumpkins and Microsoft went all out to produce a short horror video featuring a deranged Killer and the popular Kinect controller.

Google’s Pumpkins

Here is Google’s pumpkin video:

(Bonus: here is the behind-the-scenes story of how the video was created)

The Kinect of Horror

When you think of Microsoft, horror and video, chances are you are thinking about the infamous Songsmith video, but its Channel 9 team actually made good use of the company’s in-house video-production facilities and put together a respectable little horror video(YouTube version via WinRumors):

Bonus: One More Microsoft Video to Give You Nightmares

If that didn’t scare you, here’s the old Microsoft Songsmith video (which is almost guaranteed to give you nightmares tonight):



6:41 pm


Bing Booster: Microsoft Wants to Bring Bing to More Startups

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Microsoft today launched its new Bing Booster program. This new program, which is launching in Boston, New York and San Francisco today, aims to “to bring experts, connections, and resources to a few incubators and co-work spaces in each city.” With BizSpark, Microsoft has long been running a very successful program aimed at helping early-stage startups. Bing Booster wants to add a layer on top of this and is more focused on helping “Bing and startups connect.”

In each city, the program will work with existing incubators and co-working spaces to reach out to startups. Bing has designated one member of its team to each city – all of them senior employees at Microsoft: Betsy Aoki for Boston, Senior Program Manger in Microsoft’s Online Services Division; Aya Zook for New York, Senior Product Manager with the Bing team and Stefan Weitz, the public face of Bing and its Director, for the San Francisco area.

Connections, Resources and Bing APIs

Unlike BizSpark, there doesn’t seem to be any direct monetary value attached to working with the Bing Booster program for startups, but according to the announcement, Microsoft plans to “foster connections between our internal teams and startups where it makes sense.” Those connections could prove to be quite valuable for startups in the long run.

On the surface, Microsoft’s team argues that it wants to help startups discover Bing’s APIs and help them develop “the future of the Internet.” More cynical minds would also argue that Microsoft obviously wants to siphon some startups away from using Google’s ubiquitous APIs and maybe even acquire some of the most promising startups and incorporate their products into Bing itself.



5:26 pm


Microsoft Talks Windows 8 at BUILD: Here’s What’s New

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Microsoft today provided developers (and users) with a first detailed look at Windows 8 during its BUILD conference. Steven Sinofsky, who is in charge of the Windows 8 development for Microsoft, provided both consumers and developers with a first look at many of the new features in Windows 8, as well as some of the new hardware devices that will soon run Windows 8.

Windows 8: It’s All About Metro and Touch

So what is Windows 8 all about? “First, everything that makes Windows 7 great, but made better,” said Sinofsky. “Second,” he noted, “it reimagines Windows from the chipset to experience with a new range of capabilities, scenarios and form factors.” Even though the new Windows will have plenty of new features, he assured the developers in the audience that Windows 8 will use less memory and processing power than Windows 7.

build_sinofsky_logoWindows 8, says Microsoft, will become “a new opportunity for developers.” As Sinofsky rightly pointed out, the arrival of new form factors – including ARM- and Intel-based tablets – means developers will get access to new markets and potential customers.” Touch, Sinofsky thinks, isn’t just for tablets but also for desktop PCs. He thinks that once users start seeing how Windows 8 works on tablets, they will inevitably want to also use touch on their desktops and laptops.

Sinfosky also shared a few other interesting statistics. Windows 7 usage, for example, is now finally greater than Windows XP usage and 542 million people use Windows Live.

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So What’s New in Windows 8?

Here are the most important new features in Windows 8: [list]

  • the Metro-style UI: we had already seen some demos of this before, but Microsoft today showed a few more details of the new touch-optimized user interface. What’s probably the most interesting aspect of this new UI is that it works in tandem with the old Windows 7-style interface. While Sinofsky continues to say that this is a “no compromise” experience, I can’t help but think that having two highly different interfaces just doesn’t make a lot of sense and isn’t something I can really see users do on a regular basis.
    metro_interface
  • Internet Explorer 10: this is a chromeless, minimalist version of Internet Explorer that, according to Microsoft puts “sites at the center on new Windows 8 devices.”
  • Windows Store: every vendor today has a store, so Microsoft will also launch an app store for Windows 8.
  • Syncing: thanks to Windows Live, users will be able to sync all of their documents, emails and other files and data between different Windows 8 machines (no word on whether this feature will also be extended to Windows 7 through an  update or additional software).[/list]
    fast_and_fluid

For developers, of course, Microsoft is also adding plenty of new features, including the ability to basically use web apps as fully-featured desktop apps. Developers will be able to get more information about this at the soon-to-launch Windows Dev Center.

One Windows Everywhere

For Microsoft, one of the main tenants behind its Windows 8 development philosophy is that it can run on any device – no matter the size, shape and underlying chipset (ARM or Intel).

Microsoft will release the developer preview of Windows 8 tonight. Assuming our PCs here are compatible, we will install it as soon as possible and provide you with some more hands-on impressions of what it looks like on the desktop.



4:42 pm


Bing Maps Gets a New Interface and More Readable Maps

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Microsoft today launched a new interface for Bing Maps, the company’s Google Maps competitor. The Bing team mostly focused on changing the layout of toolbar at the top of the screen, which now consolidates virtually all of the features that were, as Microsoft puts it, “scattered throughout the page.” Bing Maps now also has some country-specific features, including access to more detailed public transit maps and Ordnance Survey-style maps of London for users in the UK, for example. (more…)



10:53 pm


Microsoft Brings Order and Higher Resolutions to Bing Maps’ Aerial Images

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For consumers, the search rivalry between Microsoft’s Bing and Google has a number of advantages, even outside of the core search features both companies offer. Mapping is one of these areas where the two companies are continuously pushing each other to improve their products. Bing Maps has long been a very good mapping service (arguably better than Google’s offerings in some areas), but just like Google Maps, the quality of the images used in the application was often inconsistent. With its Global Ortho program, which launched in 2010, Microsoft aims to bring more consistency to the user experience when it comes to the resolution and quality of the satellite and aerial images it uses. The first fruits of these efforts are slowly becoming more apparent in Bing Maps now and Microsoft just launched an update to its Bing Maps World Tour to showcase the quality of these new images. (more…)



9:49 pm


Microsoft’s Updated SkyDrive Goes Ad Free

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Microsoft today announced a new version of SkyDrive, the company’s cloud storage service. With support for the Office Web Apps, SkyDrive hooks into the Microsoft Office ecosystem as well as the world of Windows Phone and regular Windows desktops. The new version of SkyDrive is written to take advantage of HTML5 and is, according to Microsoft, significantly faster and easier to use. Microsoft also dropped the ad banner that used to haunt the right sidebar and now uses this space to provide easier access to additional features. (more…)



11:26 pm


Bing for Mobile: More Social, Smarter Maps and a News Carousel

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Microsoft just launched a number of interesting updates for the mobile, web-based version of Bing. Bing for Mobile now features built-in support for Facebook sharing, a highly visual headline news section and a new design for Bing Maps that splits the view between text-based directions and the map when you’re looking for directions. These updates are live now for all iPhone, Android and BlackBerry users. In addition to all of these updates, Microsoft also just announced that Bing for Mobile is now available in the UK as well. For UK users, this means that Bing now shows “a redesigned homepage, enhanced local listings, autosuggest, image search, and driving and walking directions (and real-time transit in London).”

imageMicrosoft’s close cooperation with Facebook is clearly paying off for the company. Facebook is now closely integrated into the desktop and mobile versions of Bing. On the mobile version, users can’t just share images and local business details, but also details about apps (iPhone only).

As for the news updates, Bing now uses a carousel view that doesn’t just show off what developers can do with HTML5, but also makes for a rather nice browsing experience.

If you want to give Bing for Mobile a try, just head over to m.bing.com on your supported device.



10:09 pm


Bing is Slowly Gaining Traction in UK

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Bing, Microsoft’s upstart search engine, hasn’t quite been able to replicate its success in the U.S. in the European market. The latest data from Hitwise includes some good news for Microsoft, however. While every other search engine in the UK lost market share in the last year, Bing actually managed to increase its share of searches in March by 1.4% compared to one year ago. Now that’s now a huge change by any means – and its overall share of searches is still just 4.4% compared to Google’s 90%. As Hitwise’s Robin Goad points out, though, “this translates to a lot of extra searches occurring in Bing.”

It’s worth noting that Yahoo UK still powers its own search engine and – unlike the Yahoo mothership in the U.S. – doesn’t get its search data from Bing yet. The timetable for Bing’s integration into the UK version of Yahoo isn’t clear yet, but the total share of searches for a combined Bing/Yahoo would currently be just under 8%. Year-to-year, Bing was the only major search service in the UK that gained market share.

The biggest loser in the UK is Google, however, which lost 0.61% of the share of searches in March when compared to last year and 0.66% compared to February.

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8:39 am


Bing Expands Facebook Integration With More “Liked Results”

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All the major search engines are now working on integrating signals from your own personal network on sites like Facebook and Twitter to enhance their search results. Google launched its latest initiative last week and today Bing is launching the next step in its program to bring more “liked results” to its results pages. Whenever one of you friends has liked a page that appears in your search results on Microsoft’s search engine, this fact is now highlighted on Bing and your friends’ profile pictures will appear underneath the link.

Bing already featured some Facebook likes on its pages before, but these results were still limited to a selection of sites that were whitelisted by Bing and results appeared in their own box at the top of the search results. Today’s update brings “liked results” to any page on the Web that one of your friends has liked in the past.

Unlike Google, Bing doesn’t surface any shared links from Twitter. Google, on the other hand, doesn’t show any Facebook ‘likes’ yet.

It doesn’t look as if Bing is using these signals to influence what links you see in its algorithmically determined search results, though. Depending on how much you trust your friends’ recommendations, that is either a good or a bad thing, but chances are that Microsoft is also working on making social recommendations one of the (infamous) 1,000 signals Bing looks at to determine search relevancy.



10:03 am