Will Bing Take Center Stage on the iPhone?

Lots of talk today about a BusinessWeek article that reports Apple is in talks with Microsoft to replace Google as the default search provider on the iPhone. This results from the growing turf battle between the two mobile heavyweights.

What is at stake here is the default Google search bar and button within the Safari Web browser, as well as the default mapping application on the iPhone home screen. The latter obviously has lots of implications for mobile local search, a quickly developing area for Google.

Overall, this is about mobile search share, something Google has been able to successfully transfer from its leading position online to mobile. For that it has a few things to thank: 1. brand equity/ user habits. 2. default positioning on the iPhone where the vast majority of mobile Web traffic is happening.

If Apple does indeed give this vaunted position to Microsoft, Bing will see traffic growth from the second factor. But the first factor is entirely in the hands of users — especially as mobile user behavior becomes more sophisticated to go “off deck” and use whatever sites or apps they damn well please.

In addition to this factor, I’m not too worried about Google’s ability to maintain mobile search share, because of one word: Android. Though most mobile searches are happening on iPhones as mentioned, we expect Android to eclipse the device in both platform reach and traffic over the next few years.

And, of course, Google’s ownership of the OS positions it nicely to put its search engine front and center — not just text but also voice search, a la the Nexus One.


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