It's the latest move in Microsoft Corp.'s campaign to convince Web surfers that for some online tasks, at least, Bing is best.
Microsoft has been struggling to challenge Web search and advertising leader Google Inc. for years. Rather than taking on Google head-on, Microsoft has tried to position Bing as a better alternative for accomplishing certain kinds of online tasks: shopping, planning trips, looking for local businesses and searching for health information.
The strategy seems to be working. Bing is still the No. 3 search engine behind Google and Yahoo, but its share of U.S. Web searches is creeping up. Microsoft says use of Bing's shopping and other priority areas grew faster than use of the site overall.
Now, Microsoft is making a push into entertainment. The company has struck deals with television networks, video Web sites such as Hulu, recording labels, game makers and other content companies. When people search for a show, a song or a casual game on Bing, they'll often be able to watch, listen or play right from the search results, without having to go to another site.
Yusuf Mehdi, a senior vice president in Microsoft's online business, said the idea was to merge the search box with a universal remote control.
People will be able to listen to 5 million songs for free on Bing once, before being prompted to sign up for a Zune pass, Microsoft's $15-per-month unlimited streaming music service. Bing will also give people access to more than 1,000 TV episodes and about 100 casual video games, such as checkers or "Bejeweled."
Bing is also beefing up entertainment-related search results, with detailed artist pages and lyrics for music search results; TV guides that show every time and channel a favorite show might be playing in a week; and a page that helps people not only buy movie tickets, but plan for parking and find nearby restaurants.
Bing's basic search results page will also get a minor facelift in the next few weeks. Microsoft is adding new tabs across the top to help people more quickly zero in on the kind of answers they're looking for.
The company says it has also made news search results more relevant, and designed a new finance section for investors seeking news and data about companies and markets.