Bing and Kayak: Questions (and some answers) on Microsoft's latest search partnership

Microsoft announced this week a new partnership with travel-search provider Kayak. Here are a few questions (and fewer answers) about Redmond's latest Bing-related deal.

I remember a couple of years ago hearing rumors that Microsoft was poised to buy the Kayak travel-search service. Instead, Microsoft ended up buying Farecast, which is now Bing Travel. Shortly thereafter, Microsoft and Kayak tussled over Kayak claims that Bing was copying Kayak.

Cut to 2011. It looks like the former travel-search adversaries have put their differences aside. On March 4, Microsoft announced it had formed a partnership with Kayak to incorporate Kayak travel-search services within Bing Travel, starting with flight search in the U.S.

When I asked about the particulars of the deal, I was told by a Microsoft spokesperson that "We are not at liberty to discuss the terms of the partnership." I was directed to take my questions to Kayak. Here are my questions and answers from Robert Birge, Kayak Chief Marketing Officer:

Q: Is this an exclusive partnership? Can Kayak also do deals with other travel search comapanies if they want? A: Details of the partnership are not disclosed.

Q: Did MS pay Kayak for this partnership? If so, how much? A: Microsoft does not disclose financial information.

Q: Why would anyone go to Kayak now for travel search, instead of simply using Bing Travel? Are there some things Kayak is still providing on its site that you can’t get via Bing?

A: Both Kayak and Bing offer completely different user interfaces and different user experiences. Kayak is on the forefront of travel search – and not just flight search. Kayak creates smart technology that allows travellers to find and book travel from hundreds of travel sites at once for flights, hotels, car and cruise travel.  Additionally, Kayak offers advanced travel planning, booking and management features, which offer users a comprehensive, accurate and flexible solution to travel.

Kayak.com also hosts a number of additional useful features, (including) a baggage fee calculator; the ‘Explore’ feature helps you find places to go on a map based on budget, time of travel, and the kind of trip, e.g. “I have $500 and I want to go someplace sunny in April”; and the My Trips itinerary management tool, which consolidates different travel plans into one simple itinerary that you can easily print, share, and integrate into your calendars and smartphone.

Q: Both Microsoft and Kayak are fighting Google's attempt to purchase ITA. Is there any connection between your joint opposition to Google's ITA acquisition and your decision to ally yourselves with Microsoft?

A: The simple answer is no, there is no connection. Kayak is working with Bing to extend our services to additional consumers. That relationship doesn't impact the potential for Google to restrict access to ITA's faring technology nor their ability to inappropriately leverage their general search monopoly to promote a competing travel search service.