Microsoft is continuing to invest heavily in Bing. Today the company announced it has significantly updated the 18-month-old Spatial Data Services (SDS) in Bing Maps. The changes eliminate legacy tools, improve performance and maybe most importantly, improve the service for its enterprise customers.

New and Improved with Faster Performance

Microsoft launched Spatial Data Services almost two years ago. The service allows users to run location-based searches for points of interest, traffic incidents or other geographic information using parameters like area, property or route without building their own algorithms. The service is publicly available, but also offers a paid enterprise subscription level.

Before the latest round of enhancements, the service allowed users to host data in external systems. Microsoft has replaced external data hosting in services like MapPoint Web Service, MultiMap and Vicinity and moved the functionality internally.

The company has also enhanced its upload process to validate user data before the upload process begins, and added logging, alerting and several other features to better support professional development. In addition, Microsoft made several architectural changes that improved the performance of the service. According to Microsoft, the changes have reduced upload times from hours to minutes.

The most notable changes to the service, however, are focused at enterprise customers. Microsoft is prioritizing jobs submitted by enterprise customers above other searches in the queue. Enterprise customers also have access to more “cool stuff” than free users, according to the announcement about the changes from Microsoft.

Who Cares

Why are the updates to Bing’s mapping service newsworthy? The updates are another example of Microsoft’s continued effort to make its search service more well-rounded in hopes of attracting customers away from search leader Google. Providing a free usage tier entices more users to the service, and these users’ interactions provide a rich source of data for Microsoft to improve Bing’s search capabilities. This is important because location, like social data, has become an important input for contextualizing search.

Bing’s mapping capabilities haven’t reached the popularity of Google’s service, but if Microsoft continues to roll out enhancements of this magnitude, it may soon become a viable alternative.