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Summary:

Microsoft released the Bing for Mobile Android Application today, but the software is exclusive to Verizon Wireless handsets. This follows Skype Mobile as another third-party app that’s limited to a carrier, not a platform, which is a disturbing trend and could bring consumer backlash.

bing-mobile-android

Microsoft today released the free Bing for Mobile Android App, offering search, a new “image of the day” on the homepage, integrated voice search, instant answers, mapping and more. I’d love to share my thoughts on the new Bing software, but the fact is: I can’t. Like Skype on Android in the U.S., Microsoft’s Bing for Mobile Android App is only available for Android devices on the Verizon Wireless network. Without an iPhone to offer customers, Verizon is cleverly working exclusive software deals with developers to gain an advantage over rival AT&T.

I reached out to Microsoft to verify the exclusivity and sure enough, it’s true, although I was told via email that “there are plans to expand the app to devices with other U.S. mobile operators later this year.” So if you have one those hot new Samsung Galaxy S class phones, for example — Samsung today said it’s shipped a million Galaxy S handsets in the U.S. — you’re out of luck for now. Bing will be supported on Verizon’s version of the Galaxy S — the Samsung Fascinate — when that phone launches, but versions for Android devices on other the carriers are in a holding pattern.

Although I’m happy with Google searches on my Nexus One using a T-Mobile SIM card, I really would like to have tried the Bing app on my smartphone. There’s no technical reason the app won’t run on my device; this is purely a business partner situation. As a Skype user since 2004, I wouldn’t mind having Skype Mobile too, but again, that software and service is limited to a particular carrier here. I can appreciate carrier-specific apps limited to phones on a particular network, but when it comes to larger, third-party software vendors, I see a situation where carriers are trying too hard for a value play. Limiting software by platform makes sense for many reasons, but limiting an app to a carrier is a desperate effort to attract new customers.

For now, it seems that Verizon is continuing to combat its lack of an iPhone with excellent Android hardware like the Motorola Droid X , HTC Incredible, and upcoming Samsung Fascinate, as well as having a stellar network with massive national coverage. That type of strategy certainly makes sense, and to some extent, is paying off: Last quarter, Verizon gained 665,000 postpaid subscribers, while postpaid churn was 0.94 percent. Adding exclusive Android apps like Skype Mobile and Bing for Mobile may be helping to small degree, but it runs the risk of souring consumer sentiment, potentially towards both Verizon and Microsoft.

Indeed, this situation might be worth a mention to Matt Thompson, Microsoft’s GM for Developer and Platform Evangelism, one of our Mobilize event speakers next month. The approach is akin to Microsoft Office only running on computers from Dell, and I know that would never fly with regulators, nor consumers. I’ll just have to try Bing on the web using my Android phone. Last I checked, the web was still usable on all of the carrier’s networks.

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  1. i have a formerly verizon motorola droid that has been converted to work with cricket. the bing app work flawlessly. so you do not need to be a current verizon customer. you just need an android handset originally sold by verizon.

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  2. Dilip Andrade Monday, August 30, 2010

    The problem with Skype is bigger than you make it out to be. It isn’t just restricted to Verizon in the U.S. It’s just resitricted to Verizon.

    As a Canadian, I can’t even sign up for Verizon, but Skype is still not available to me. When I asked about it, Skype told me that they will continue exploring partnership deals.

    These deals may help the carriers, but unless there’s an exclusivity payment to the service provider, I don’t see who really wins. Do people actually say “I like Skype, so I’ll get a Verizon phone?”

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  3. I’m not a big fan of these exclusive deals. The Blockbuster app on my droid X is considered “system” software. There is no way to uninstall CityId. I personally don’t have use for Bing and am content by it’s absence

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    1. That’s another ugly side to this: carrier-installed apps that you can’t remove, so they take up storage space. :(

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  4. Want Bing on an Android phone? Are you kidding?

    15 minutes spent playing with a Droid X reminded me just how backwards is the carrier’s approach towards its customers. Widgets and icons strewn everywhere, with no consideration given to how they would be used. Really useful apps (Gesture Search) just missing.

    And now, as Dilip points out, Skype is along for that ride. Only on Verizon. Then you have to turn WiFi on or off before you use it. Nuts.

    The guy who owns the Droid X is around 70 years old. Smart, competent and curious, but unwilling to allocate a lot of time to solving other people’s stupid moves. He has this great tool in his hands, but he has to wade through an interface designed for short-term press releases, not utility. It’s hard to watch his frustration, hard to forgive the product team that configured that phone.

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    1. Marin, the moconews quote from Microsoft is pretty much the same as what I have in the post above, where Microsoft told me: “there are plans to expand the app to devices with other U.S. mobile operators later this year.”

      Essentially, this is an exclusive to Verizon (and only available in the U.S.) for now. The download is found on the Verizon tab of the Android Market on an Android device — Microsoft has specified it to be only available on a single carrier for now. How is that not exclusive?

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  5. Hamranhansenhansen Monday, August 30, 2010

    This can’t possibly be true because Android is open, it’s not a walled garden. Also, Google revolutionized the mobile market by selling Nexus One direct to users, so carriers don’t have this kind of power anymore.

    And if this were actually true, there would have to a huge uprising amongst Android users, we would never hear the end of it, because I know when Apple does something they don’t like, there is an endless whining about it. If something like this happened on their own platform, then of course Android users would be even more vocal about it, right? Because it’s not like Skype and Bing broke built-in features of the phone like Google Voice with iPhone, this is just a pure dollar deal, just screwing over Android users for bucks. That is much worse. And yet we haven’t heard hardly a peep about it.

    So I simply can’t believe any of this is true. Users who cannot run Skype and Bing just must not know how to use their Android phones.

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    1. Hmm…. as I recall, I heard a bunch of grumbling from non-Verizon Android users when the Skype deal was announced in February. It’s still in place BTW – if you want Skype Mobile on an Android device in the U.S., you can only get it on a Verizon phone. And now it’s the same for Bing.

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