Bing 411

A (currently) free service introduced along with Microsoft’s Bing search engine is Bing 411. This is a U.S. focused service aimed at enabling mobile search through mobile devices with or without data capabilities. Driving directions, weather, traffic, sports, movies, stock quotes, cheap gas and travel are the pre-programmed “services” which can be asked for at anytime. After dialing Bing 411 (1-800-246-4411), you can use voice prompts in a similar fashion to keying into a search engine online, or use the “services” to get some structure in your requests right away. The stock quote service, as an example, allows you to enter a ticker symbol from the keyboard or verbally after listening to an advertisement (to help pay the bills); then you will be given basic stock information. Weather and the other services follow the same paradigm, with the added feature of allowing the service to use your cell location to give location sensitive information.
The service does a good job of linking the user with context sensitive search information while on the go, with limitations primarily stemming from the device being used. You can pre-populate “home” and “work” locations (you may want to know Microsoft’s privacy policy) to facilitate use of directions and then get either text or verbal instructions on how to get between any two points. The service works well, with only the annoyance of advertising in the way – but free does imply that someone is paying for it in some way or another.
An interesting feature, and one that could be very useful on the road is search which does link location with type of service requested. So, if you want to search for a steak restaurant in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire, you simply state city and state, then the type of restaurant desired and the system will verbally respond with choices based on distance.
This service is a good competitive entrant into this market against Google, It will be interesting to see how the funding model changes over time and whether or not people will be repeat customers of use it once just for the novelty’s sake.

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