In July of this year, Microsoft made it official that Bing is more than just a search engine. It also is a dev platform, providing coders with controls, development kits and the back-end services powering these elements.
On October 21, Microsoft added a long-awaited piece to the Bing developer toolbox: A speech recognition control. This new control allows developers to build Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows RT Metro-Style/Windows Store apps that include speech-recognition as one of their inputs.
Microsoft execs also announced updates to the existing Bing Optical Character Recognition Control and Bing Translator Controls so that they support Windows 8.1.
"If you are a Windows Phone developer, you may already be familiar with the speech recognition inside Windows Phone: the user taps a microphone icon, speaks into the mic, and the text shows up on screen," wrote members of the Bing Dev Center team in a new blog post. "Now, that same functionality is available on Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows RT through the free Bing Speech Recognition Control."
Microsoft has been encouraging developers to license its mapping, speech, translation and various other search-related application programming interfaces (APIs) for years with mixed success. Going forward, Microsoft's pitch to developers is that they can embed not just a set of static APIs and controls, but the continuously updated logic and data powering them.
Some of Microsoft's own product teams are already using these Bing API-plus-service packages. The Bing search experience in Windows 8.1, for example, is making use of a number of the Bing APIs and controls, plus the services powering these elements. And some of the recently announced Microsoft AppEx applications — like the Health & Fitness one that's been announced for Windows 8.1 — do, as well. The Bing search engine itself is powered by these services, too, company officials said.
Don't forget, it's Bing that provides the responses when users search by voice via Kinect for movies, TV shows and music. It's Bing that's parsing the natural-language-query commands, such as "Xbox, Snap Internet Explorer." Specifically, it's the Tellme voice technology, combined with social-graph information, plus Bing's search functionality.
In other developer-focused news this week, Microsoft announced availablity of the Windows Azure software development kit (SDK) 2.2, which adds support of the final RTM release of Visual Studio 2013; integrated Azure sign-in support within Visual Studio; VS 2013 RTM VM images for MSDN subscribers; and a preview of Azure Management Libraries for .Net.