Microsoft's vaunted Bing content apps—News, Sports, Money (formerly Finance), Travel, Food & Drink and Health & Fitness—are being relaunched under the MSN brand and are being ported to the web. And later this year, the apps, which are currently available as part of Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1, will be ported to Android and iOS as well.
These changes are part of a wider refocus for MSN, which has undergone numerous changes since its 1995 launch as an online service to accompany Windows 95. To those of us in the US, MSN has faded to the background—most know it only because it's sometimes the default home page for Internet Explorer—but it still boasts over 410 million users worldwide, Microsoft tells me. And since MSN is very much content-focused, it makes sense that the excellent Bing apps would be relaunched under the MSN brand.
Porting them to Android and iOS also makes sense given Microsoft's new "cloud first, mobile first" strategy.
These changes will take time to implement, however. This week, a new MSN web portal will launch in beta form, offering web-based access to the same content and services we saw previously in the Bing content apps on Windows and Windows Phone.
Microsoft says that 50 million unique users utilize the Bing apps on Windows and Phone already. But the move to the web makes this amazing content available to far more people. And in the next few weeks, beta versions of the rebranded MSN apps will appear on Windows and Windows Phone. And then Android and iOS versions will appear by the end of the year, dramatically increasing their exposure.
For those already using these apps, this expansion means that the content they're saving and syncing will now work everywhere. So they're no longer limited to accessing this information only from Windows and Windows Phone.
"In the coming months, we will release a suite of MSN apps across iOS and Android to complement our corresponding Windows and Windows Phone apps," Microsoft corporate vice president Brian MacDonald notes. "You only need to set your favorites once, and your preferences will be connected across MSN, Cortana, Bing and other Microsoft experiences. Whether it is your watchlist of stocks in MSN Money, your favorite sports teams in MSN Sports, or your recipe collections in MSN Food & Drink, those things will always be with you at your PC at work, on your iPad in the living room, or on your Android phone when you are on the go."
I'll be writing about the individual MSN content experiences and the new MSN web portal throughout the week. For now, you can access the new MSN—and the web-based versions of the former Bing content apps—at preview.msn.com.