May 21, 2024


It's the Technology

Microsoft considering 'super app' to expand mobile search • The Register

Microsoft considering ‘super app’ to expand mobile search • The Register

Microsoft officials have reportedly batted about the idea of a smartphone “super app” that would combine a range of mobile consumer services to fuel advertising and drive users to products including Bing and Teams.

It also would help Microsoft chip away at the dominant positions Google and Apple hold in the mobile search business, according to a report this week in The Information, citing unnamed sources.

It remains unclear whether Redmond HQ has made a decision whether to create such an app, though it has been noted that CEO Satya Nadella wants Bing to operate more closely with Teams and Outlook.

The Register has asked Microsoft for comment and we’ll add the official response when it arrives.

The idea of an all-in-one app that brings a broad array of services under one umbrella isn’t new. The Asian tech giant Tencent does that – critics say it does a lot of things and none of them consistently well – with WeChat. Chinese readers and those of you who work closely with those based there will be familiar with the calling and messaging app, which also includes censored news, online shopping, and games, among the services. WeChat apparently was a source of inspiration for the Microsoft executives, according to those anonymous sources.

Other companies, including Grab – Southeast Asia’s answer to Uber – and Careem, which Uber bought in 2020 for $3.1 billion, both offer super apps. Careem, which started life as a ride-hailing company, now offers a range of services on its super app, from food delivery to car and bike rentals to a Venmo-like digital wallet. Grab’s services also include food delivery and digital payments.

In October, as he prepared to buy Twitter, Elon Musk tweeted about X, which he described as an “everything app” that would be similar to WeChat. Musk had talked about Twitter becoming a super app in the months leading up to his $44 billion acquisition of the company and in August apparently bought back the domain, which he first owned in 1999.

If the report proves true, for Microsoft, a super app could help plug a hole as it competes with Microsoft and Apple, both of which also run their own mobile app stores. The company already has Microsoft Start – a bulked up iteration of its Microsoft News app – a personalized news feed rolled out last year that also includes other information like temperatures, traffic, and stock market and offers online shopping, games, and other features.

It’s available through the Widgets panel in Windows 11 or the Windows 10 taskbar. It also can be reached as a website on Microsoft Edge and Chrome and as a mobile app for both Android and iOS.

Microsoft Start addresses many of the features offered by super apps like WeChat, which is in the enviable position of having the Chinese government ban many of its competitors, giving it a long runway in the country’s massive consumer market.

However, what Microsoft executives reportedly want is a way to drive more searches to Bing, grow its advertising business and bring more users to tools like Teams and Outlook, something Microsoft Start apparently doesn’t do enough of.

Let’s face it, what would make Windows users happier than another way to catch Microsoft ads? ®