According to Mary Jo Foley, writing for CNET, the main focus of these developers is the Windows 8 tablet, Windows Phones, and the Xbox gaming console. Their applications often include Bing and MSN data and elements. If you’ve checked out Windows 8 and seen some of the interesting apps that come with it, you’ve probably seen their work.
So what kinds of applications are we talking about? They cover news, travel, finance, weather, sports, and maps. In short, these are quintessential search-related apps, so it’s only natural that a team working in the same department as a search engine would create them. To be fair, though, this group may work in the same division, but it boasts a different name: AppEx, short for “Application Experiences.”
The AppEx team still reports to the same head as the Bing core engineering team, however: Brian MacDonald, corporate VP of Online Services. Don’t let the “corporate” part fool you; MacDonald can claim some serious applications experience. He used to head the NetDocs team, a group that was trying to create an Internet-centric office suite. This happened before Microsoft had completely embraced the Internet and the cloud, apparently, since the company killed NetDocs because it would compete with Microsoft Office. (I have to wonder what MacDonald thinks of Office 365).
The AppEx group lets Microsoft tap into the big data/cloud assets the company now possesses thanks to Bing. For example, the Bing team created a version of Bing Maps for the Windows Phone. Other apps on the horizon could tap into a cloud at the back end and content built with MSN on the front end.
According to Adam Sohn, Bing’s General Manager, in Online Services “We want to use assets we’ve built to make other Microsoft products more compelling." So it makes sense that the company would start building apps like this to enhance its various platforms, especially as mobile computing diversifies.
But the AppEx team’s work won’t be just for Microsoft platforms in the future. Foley noted that the group has already done some preliminary work on Bing apps for iPhones and iPads. Heresy? Hardly; given the popularity of those platforms, it’s more like good business sense. No doubt we’ll see more cross-platform Bing-related apps coming out of this group in the future.