As most of you are aware by now, Microsoft announced two big search distribution deals last night: a three year global deal with Dell and a five year mobile deal with Verizon Wireless. That instantly gives Microsoft access to Verizon's roughly 80 million users. It's a big win for Microsoft and represents one of the company's best chances for stopping Google's march toward early mobile search dominance. It also gives Microsoft the ability to tout the Verizon user base before brand and national advertisers. In one stroke Microsoft "overcomes" the fragmentation problem of mobile marketing -- potentially.
However it very much remains to be seen how many people actually use the search tools that will be integrated and pre-loaded onto Verizon handsets. As I said in my post last night at Search Engine Land:
The irony or paradox of the Verizon-Microsoft mobile search deal is that smartphones are where most of the mobile search activity is happening today. Yet those are the users that the carriers have the least amount of control over and where the “carrier deck” is either marginal or effectively non-existent. Users may simply open a browser and head to the “mobile internet,” visiting whatever sites and search engines they please.
The Microsoft press release describes the implementation this way:
Depending on which device they use, customers will be able to use voice commands and typed queries and even select to use location-aware searches to receive highly relevant search results, including maps, directions, traffic information, information on local businesses, movie theatres and show times, gas prices and weather. In addition, customers will also get search results that include news and entertainment content such as downloadable full-track songs, videos and games. Verizon Wireless customers will be able to access Microsoft Live Search from a device’s home screen, by downloading an application or through Verizon Wireless’ Mobile Web service.
The deal thus offers a range of consumer-facing dimensions, which include its newly upgraded Live Search client application. Having used the Live Search client extensively in the past I was impressed with it. There were some problems early on with data quality, which goes to the underlying listings database, but those it would appear have been addressed. The client offers a broad range of content types, as well as a voice interface.
There's no question this deal is a huge deal for Microsoft -- literally and figuratively. I'm sure there's a generous revenue share or even revenue guarantees. In addition the opportunity to work collaboratively on advertising -- search AND display -- probably had something to do with Verizon's choice of Microsoft vs. Google. Verizon and Google have also previously been antagonists in connection with the carrier "openness" debate and 700 MHz spectrum auction. So that probably didn't help Google.
Yet, ironically, Verizon will be all but compelled to offer an Android/Google phone in the coming years as all its major carrier rivals introduce them. But that's a separate discussion.
The deal also potentially helps Yellowpages.com, which offers local advertising through Live Search. See, e.g., Boston Hotels: