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Microsoft Takes On Google With Focus On Trip Planning Services In New Bing Maps Preview

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Microsoft announced in a blog today that a new preview for Bing Maps is out for users to use and help the company improve it. The preview is currently available in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Africa, and will be available to more markets in the near future, according to the Bing Maps team.

This preview brings in many new features to the highly under-appreciated (which is really true) bing maps service which, according to the Redmond giant, are suggestions they received from users using Bing Maps (and other map services online) from all over the world.

As we already know, Microsoft sold a part of their Bing Maps visual assets to Uber last week. But this new announcement just holds to prove that Microsoft has just not given up on its proprietary mapping service, just if you thought so.

The new preview features many updates which put more emphasis on travel planning than in actual routing. This can be understandable as most people usually look for directions on their smartphones, specially while travelling. The new features include a completely redesigned layout which, according to Microsoft, is more touchscreen friendly.

The new UI is meant to allow you to search, view and share multiple places simultaneously, essentially making travel planning much less of a chore.

Microsoft has taken cues from the card stack view of Google Now to design the way Bing Maps shows you previous searches and suggestions. With these ‘cards’ giving you a history on what you were up to before and helping you find better spots according to your preferences on the left side of the screen, the new UI looks, if we may, quite fantastic. It really makes planning easier if you have reminders and suggestions right under your fingertips and Microsoft seems to know that.

These cards show multiple destinations in a single view and each card displays information related to the given rendezvous , such as hours of operation, and similar businesses and services nearby. That’s, in practice, each and every stop you need to make throughout your whole trip. Travelling is no more a hard thing to plan.

Another addition is the softkey on the right side of the map layout. This button enables you to select your preferred type of view of the map or perform actions like “save as favorite,” “add to route,” and “view streetside” by right-clicking on your screen. This is also an attempt by the Bing Maps team at making the new app much more appealing on touch based devices.

And even though the software giant claims that they wish to help you with planning and not routing your trip, there are still a few additions in the directions department of the new service.

The preview will now help you decide when the best time for you to depart is based on the estimated drive time and history of the traffic through the road you are meant to travel via. Another addition is that the service will provide you with locations of hotels, restaurants and gas stations along your path of travel. This can be highly useful in situations where you need to make an emergency stop or are running out of fuel (which, we hope, is highly unlikely).

Google Map’s Street View is one of the best highlights of the maps service by the Web giant and Microsoft wants to take this on with their own approach of a street visual service. They call it Streetside View and it allows you to take 360-degree tour of the area while displaying the map of the location directly below it.

Planned your trip? Why not save it for future reference and invite all the people you want to involve in the outing? Yes, Bing Maps now allows you to do this too without the use of an external app.

The service is still in the development stage and it will be a while (according to the Bing Maps team) until the final build is out. If you want to help the team make the service better or you want to suggest a few things here and there, the developers are listening to you. Just get your word to them via Bing Lisens, or tweeting @bingmaps.

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