The Bing Developer Center which includes new APIs and controls was announced at BUILD. This new platform for Windows 8/8.1 and Windows Phone 8 developers, provides access to tools that were previously the preserve of Microsofties.
According to the Bing Blogs, the new Developer Center and resources represent:
a profound expansion of our approach to search by creating a platform that unites the intelligent services that power Bing.com and by making these capabilities available to 3rd party developers via new APIs and controls.
The post, from Gurdeep Singh Pall, Corporate Vice President, Bing, continues:
The Bing platform builds upon the enormous investments we have made in core search technologies that enable devices and services to let users interact with the world’s knowledge and their surroundings in more human ways. These technologies, when integrated into devices and apps, create an “intelligent fabric”.
The Bing Developer Center reveals the way in which Bing is now certainly more than Search - although search technology is the fundamental key to how all its facilities work.
It brings together seven Bing tools and throws in the Ads SDK, which makes sense as this gives developers a route to monetize the solutions they build with the platform. The ninth element in the matrix is an Entity API which isn't yet available.
The established Search and Maps APIs will continue to be available for those developing for earlier versions of Windows but the new APIs in the Bing Developer Center are specific to Windows 8/8.1 and Windows Phone 8.
One all-new API is the Bing Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Control for use within XAML applications. It is currently in customer technical preview and you can access up to 5,000 free transactions per month.
It handles all camera interactions, and provides a basic UX for the user to preview the camera, switch cameras, and 'take a picture'. After a user snaps a shot, the control sends it right to Bing for analysis, and returns the extracted text and its corresponding position on the image.
The Bing Translator Control for Windows 8 and 8.1 is also in customer technical preview. Based on a decade of natural language research from Microsoft Research, it lets you detect text and delivers automatic machine translation for more than 40 languages.
A new Bing Speech Control for Windows 8.1 was previewed at BUILD, showing how users will be able to interact with apps using voice. Developers will have to wait a few months for that control but meanwhile the Bing Text-to-Speech (TTS) API for Windows 8.1 is available.
It makes sense for Microsoft to develop Bing as a more general information and knowledge center and to make this available to other applications. What is not quite so welcome is the way that some of the facilities are being packaged as Windows 8 and WP8 only features. This is not essential from an engineering point of view just a desire to push users towards Windows 8 by pushing developers in that same direction.