Microsoft to bring its Bing-powered MSN apps to iOS, Android

Microsoft is rebranding its Bing consumer apps as MSN apps and bringing them to iOS and Android devices. It also is revamping the MSN.com portal.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

The team inside Bing that built some of the best "Metro Style" Windows 8 and Windows Phone apps will be bringing those same apps to iOS and Android devices.

The new MSN.com, now in preview.


The current MSN.com.

Microsoft officials said to expect the handful of Bing consumer apps -- which Microsoft is rebranding as MSN apps -- to come to iOS and Android "in the coming months." These touch-first apps, which include News, Weather, Travel, Finance, Sports, Health & Fitness, and Food & Drink, are currently available for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.

In other MSN news, Microsoft is launching on September 8 a preview of a revamped version of its MSN.com home page that highlights many of the same consumer-focused topics. That preview will be available to users in 55 markets, starting today, at preview.msn.com. Microsoft expects to remove the "beta" tag from the new MSN.com site "in the coming weeks," a spokesperson said.

The new MSN.com site makes a number of Microsoft and non-Microsoft consumer services and apps more readily accessible along the "Services Stripe" at the top of the new MSN.com page. The highlighted apps/services along that stripe include Outlook.com, Office, OneNote, OneDrive, Maps, Facebook, Twitter, Xbox Music and Skype. (On the current MSN.com page, the much-less-visible highlights include Outlook.com, Skype, "Mobile", My MSN, Bing and Bing Rewards.)

"Information and personalized settings are roamed through the cloud to keep users in the know wherever they are," said Brian MacDonald, whose new title is Corporate Vice President of Information And Content Services, in a blog post outlining the MSN news.

"You only need to set your favorites once, and your preferences will be connected across MSN, Cortana, Bing and other Microsoft experiences," MacDonald added. (Though Microsoft officials have said they'll consider when and if the company will make Cortana, Microsoft's personal digital assitant technology, available on iOS and Android, "there are no plan to bring Cortana to iOS or Android at this time," a spokesperson said when I asked.)

Microsoft has been grappling with what to do with its MSN.com portal for years. Around 2007, the company came close to abandonning MSN.com, but then decided to turn the MSN.com hub into a place where it could integrate more social-networking tools and pre-programmed content. In 2010, Microsoft launched a new version of MSN.com that delivered on those goals.

In 2012, Microsoft revamped MSN.com again, and fielded a touch-optimized version of it to users running Windows 8, Windows RT and Internet Explorer 10. The touch-first version, which had a Metro look and feel, also included refreshed versions of the core MSN sites, like news, entertainment, sports and money.

According to Microsoft, MSN.com has a worldwide audience of 437 million.

For the past couple of years, Microsoft's MacDonald has been spearheading the "Bing AppEx" (Applications Experience) team at the company, which ws charged with building consumer-facing, Bing-power apps and services for Windows 8 , Windows Phone 8 and Xbox. Some members of that team recently built a celebrity-tracking app for iOS, known as Snipp3t.

Microsoft already offers a few consumer apps for iOS and Android, including the Bing search app, OneDrive cloud-storage app and OneNote note-taking app. These apps weren't built by the Bing AppEx team and won't be rebranded as MSN apps.

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