New Bing apps begin to bridge gap between Windows 8 and Windows Phone

Ability to sync settings between Bing apps on Windows Phone, Windows 8 represents tiny step in the right direction

With the new round of Bing apps -- released this morning for Windows 8.1 and released yesterday for Windows Phone -- Microsoft is showing signs of fulfilling its stated intention to bring the Windows 8 WinRT runtime and the Windows Phone Runtime closer together. In this case, it's a simple question of syncing settings between Bing apps on Windows Phone and Windows 8. That may not seem like much, but it's another hopeful sign that somebody in Microsoft is looking at the bigger picture beyond the old Metro myopia.

Yesterday Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc (who hasn't been posting much lately) took to the Windows Phone blog to announce new Bing apps that work with the current version of Windows Phone: Bing News, Weather, Finance, and Sports. He also announced three new apps for Windows Phone: Bing Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, and Travel.

This morning I logged on to the Windows Store to find seven updates to Windows 8.1 Metro apps: News, Weather, Finance, Sports, Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, and Travel. Sound familiar?

Of course, there's no changelog for any of the 14 new/updated apps, so the only evidence we have is anecdotal, but apparently the new versions all work together and they're getting the stage set for Windows 8.1 Update 1 (which is widely rumored to reach RTM very soon) as well as Windows Phone 8.1.

Over on the Bing blog, Brian MacDonald has a detailed rundown of the new and updated Phone apps. In a nutshell, the new Bing Phone apps -- Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, and Travel -- mimic the Metro apps, give or take an accommodation for smaller screen sizes and some features more appropriate for mobile; the Health & Fitness GPS Tracker capability, for example, is undoubtedly going to give Fitbit fits. The updated Bing Phone apps run in lockstep with their Metro analogs.

The apps sync in ways that should be obvious. According to MacDonald:

In the Finance app for example, when you setup your stock watch list on Windows 8, it will show up the same way on the Windows Phone. And it works the same way if you set it up on your phone - so no matter where you start, you don't have to set it up all over again, changes and updates work the same way. So setup your favorite cities for weather, pick your favorite sports teams, chose the news topics you want to follow, and those things will be with you at your PC at work, on your Windows 8 tablet in the living room, or on your Windows Phone when you are on the go.

Of course, that level of syncing has been around forever -- Windows 8 has lots of it -- but the fact that the two platforms now sync brings Win8 and Windows Phone just a smidgen closer together.

At their hearts, all of the Bing apps run as shells on WinRT and Windows Phone Runtime, pulling content off the Web with minimal processing done locally. It would be very interesting to find out how much effort it took to port the shells from Win8 to Windows Phone. The fact that Microsoft is so late to the game with the three new Bing Phone apps has to make you wonder if the porting was more difficult than it appears -- no doubt a closely guarded secret (and possible source of embarrassment) in Redmond.

This story, "New Bing apps begin to bridge gap between Window 8 and Windows Phone," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.