Microsoft Turns to Tellme for Bing Mobile's Voice Navigation

In this post, Microsoft's Justin Jed highlights two new features that ship with the latest version of the Bing App for Mobile, designed for phones running the Windows Mobile 6.x operating system. First is a new look for the apps "Home Page" which, like its counterparts running on desktops, laptops, iPhones and Androids, sports some stunning photography. But more important is the one-touch access to popular uses and features that emphasize local activities: Movies, Traffic, Maps, Local, Directions and Favorites.

Of greater interest from our point of view is the integration of Microsoft's Tellme service into the Windows Mobile mix - this time as the foundation for voice-based turn-by-turn driving directions. It has been over a year since Greg Sterling posted this assessment of Tellme Mobile and its ability to support voice-based search, messaging and call origination. As one of the originators of the whole "Voice Portal" concept, Tellme has had the ability to offer turn-by-turn directions for a number of years. Starting with the first Droid and its "car mount" (introduced in October 2009), smartphone makers have had their sights set on the Personal Navigation Device (PND) market.

Just last week, Nokia stepped up competition by creating a marketplace for "own voices" to provide turn-by-turn directions for its OVI Maps application. Making turn-by-turn directions part of the Bing Mobile application makes navigation an integral part of the local, mobile search experience and is a very nice touch. Microsoft already incorporates directions (sans the "voice guide" feature) into the Bing app on iPhones and Android devices. The new application is designed to work on the Sprint, T-Mobile, or AT&T networks, and could emerge as an important differentiator in what is emerging as an increasingly competitive market.

In his column on Search Engine Land, Greg Sterling added: There are a lot of installed Windows Mobile smartphones but their share, at least until Windows Mobile 7 comes out later this year, is declining. A provocative question to ask is: will this feature come to the excellent Bing iPhone app? Google has been holding back Navigation from the iPhone (my guess is to try and differentiate Android handsets). A free voice-guided navigation app as part of the Bing iPhone client would probably be widely used by iPhone owners and probably motivate Google quite quickly to bring out Navigation for the iPhone. RIM users would also welcome the new Bing functionality I’m sure. While the scenario immediately above is speculation on my part I would be surprised if Bing didn’t try and populate this across the top smartphone platforms — perhaps even Android.