Bing on the iPhone: Could be risky, lucrative

Apple reportedly could make Bing the default search engine on the iPhone, but does such a move make a lot of sense?
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Apple reportedly could make Bing the default search engine on the iPhone, but does such a move make a lot of sense?

BusinessWeek floats the iPhone-Bing concept in an article examining the growing rivalry between Apple and Google. BusinessWeek notes:

Apple is in talks with Microsoft to replace Google as the default search engine on its iPhone, according to two people familiar with the matter. The talks have been under way for weeks, say the people, who asked not to be named because the details have not been made public.

On the surface, the move may make some sense. Apple and Microsoft have a history of working together when it's in the best interests of both companies. Microsoft Office on the Mac and iTunes on the PC are two examples. And it's fairly obvious that both Microsoft and Apple have a common foe: Google.

So would Apple go with Bing?

A few analysts were handicapping the possibility. Here's the take of Oppenheimer analyst Yair Reiner:

As the field of competition between Apple and Google continues to broaden and intensify, Apple's partner and product discussions are doubtless being shadowed by the lingering question, "will it make Google stronger or weaker?" Still, cozying up to MSFT could bring more risk than reward, not least because it would clash with the Mac vs. PC ad campaign and the Apple brand identity that has coalesced around it.

That brand argument is interesting, but is trumped by something that may matter more: Money.

Microsoft would pay up to be the default search on the iPhone. Apple would have to weigh the benefits against potential customer ire. Then again, customers still play along even when Apple puts the iPhone on only one network: AT&T's wireless infrastructure.

For Google, an Apple-Microsoft alliance would be a hit, but the search giant has an army of Android phones plugging into its services.

Does the iPhone-Bing deal make sense? Perhaps. It would make more sense if Bing had a little more market share and was clearly the No. 2 search. Uprooting Google may be difficult today, but if Bing proves itself in the months to come an alliance may make sense. All Apple and Microsoft have to do is weigh the varying degrees of Google on the enemy scale.


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