Maybe I am too set in my ways, but I never even really tried using Bing all that much when it was released. I also found it too busy. Sure, I’m all for beautiful sweeping nature photography, but not on my search page. So I stuck with Google (s goog), without even really looking into the real working differences between the two.
According to a new report by BusinessWeek, though, I might have another chance to become more familiar with Microsoft’s (s msft) search engine offering thanks to a deal between the Windows-maker and Apple (s aapl). The two companies are said to be in negotiations to arrange the replacement of Google with Bing as the default search engine on the iPhone platform.
The New Mobile Landscape
Discussions are said to have been going on for weeks now, though BusinessWeek’s sources remain anonymous because the discussions have yet to be made public. They also maintain that talks could break down at any time, and there is no timeline for a decision, so it could be a while before we see any action as a result of these talks.
It’s a move that makes sense for both Apple and Microsoft. Once bitter rivals, the two are now both facing a major threat from Google in the lucrative growing mobile space. Microsoft basically looks dead in the water thanks to the incredibly stale Windows Mobile 6.5 and always just-over-the-horizon Windows Mobile 7, and while Apple is still a leader in the mobile industry, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing in the near future, Google has begun to take steps that could lead to mobile market domination.
First, Google created Android, an iPhone OS competitor that’s completely open and quickly gaining ground due to favorable licensing deals. And handset makers can spin their own UI, so that it still looks and feels like a branded, proprietary OS. Then, it bought up AdMob, which makes it the force to be reckoned with in mobile advertising. Seems Google took it right out from under Apple, too. Finally, it partnered with HTC to create the Nexus One, and set up its own mobile store that could change the way cell phones are bought the world over, if things progress according to plan.
When Apple first created the iPhone, a partnership with Google made sense. Both were challenging the might of established players in the field, like Microsoft, which at that time hadn’t descended into irrelevance, and BlackBerry, which continues to be a force to be reckoned with, although it does seem to be falling off, especially with its nascent efforts at the consumer market.
What Comes Next
Times have changed. Google now gets far more out of its partnership with Apple than does the Mac-maker. Revoking platform access is the smart move for Apple from a business perspective. But what about us lowly end users? What effect would the dissolution of the Google/Apple relationship have on consumers?
First of all, don’t worry. Apple won’t pull the plug on anything until it’s confident there won’t be any adverse effects on the user experience side of things. If the Bing default switch is coming, it’ll be an opening salvo, a way to taste consumer tolerance for change, not the first step in an inevitable overhaul.
If small changes don’t generate the kind of waves that turn over boats, then we could see other, more drastic shifts. The next most obvious place to make a change will be with the built-in Maps app. We’ve seen rumors that Apple is working on its own in-house solution, and that could well take over duties. If Apple does go this way, expect to see them up the game by rolling things like point-of-interest and navigation into the app itself, so that it comes off as improvement instead of just a business-based replacement decision.