Between the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and an investor conference in Arizona, Verizon Wireless is making headlines today on issues ranging from a mobile search deal to plans for Kindle killers to Monday morning quarterbacking about the launch of the Blackberry Storm.
Reuters is reporting that Verizon Wireless has chosen Microsoft to provide search services for its cell phone subscribers over search competitors Yahoo and Google. At a Citigroup conference, Verizon chief executive Ivan Seidenberg said that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would announce the deal during his keynote speech at CES tonight but provided no other details because it was Ballmer's announcement. The matter came up as Seidenberg talked about the growth in data services on mobile devices, compared to voice services.
Of course, as mobile phones become more like computing devices with standalone applications, users are less dependent on the defaults: things like browsers and tools such as search engines. Sure, Microsoft won - but that doesn't mean I have to use it. Google, for example, has a nice mobile search app for smartphones such as the Blackberry and iPhone, as well as a mobile version that can run on a mobile Web connection. Still, it's a big score for Microsoft to be the default, as some people will simply use what they're given (which explains why so many people continue to use Internet Explorer for PC web browsing.)
During the same conference, Seidenberg was asked his opinion about the launch of the Blackberry Storm and specifically the problems that plagued it. Interestingly, he awkwardly paused before saying that he didn't want to "throw my partner under the bus" but then proceeded to do just that by saying that Verizon could have sold a lot more Storms had there been more of them to sell. Spinning it forward, he said that the company is caught up now and have the devices to meet the demand. Overall, he thought the launch was "successful."
Finally, a Verizon executive has hinted that the company is positioned to work with companies who will launch competitors to Amazon's Kindle this year. Users would be able to download content such as books and newspapers over the wireless network. Tony Lewis, who runs a program that helps third party vendors certify their products to work on Verizon's network, told Reuters in a pre-CES interview that he believes mnufacturers will still roll out products - even non-essentials like e-readers - in this turbulent economy. From the Reuters story:
He said that brisk sales of Kindle - which costs $359 on Amazon.com where buyers are told they have to wait seven to nine weeks for their device to ship -- showed there were still consumers out there who were willing to spend on wireless devices even in a tough economy.
"I just don't see us using the economy as an excuse to say there's not growth here," Lewis said. "Even in a down environment I believe there are consumer electronics providers that are ready to do business to get their products to market in 2009."