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It's Officially Microsoft and Apple Vs. Google

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In the tech business, a mutual enemy makes for strange bedfellows.

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Google Voice? Denied.

Google Latitude? Shut down.

Bing Search? Approved!

Apple's (AAPL) notoriously fickle App Store judging process wasted little time in accepting a search application designed by lifelong nemesis Microsoft (MSFT) for use on the iPhone and iPod Touch devices. Although the Google (GOOG) Mobile App remains available, users have been given a viable alternative and -- as Apple and Microsoft undoubtedly wish -- a means to create a dent in the search giant's huge market share.

Much like the temporary alliance between Professor Charles Xavier and the nefarious Magneto in 2003's X2, Apple and Microsoft have recognized a mutual adversary and pushed their differences aside to form a stronger offense. And in light of Google's solid 65.6% share of search queries last month and Google Chrome recently eclipsing Apple's Safari in browser usage, the two fuming companies have more reason than ever to quell the growing beast.

This unlikely partnership is indicative of the tremendous push Microsoft has put behind Bing. Television and print ads for the search engine were plentiful in 2009 and its integration into Windows 7 influenced more traffic. With Yahoo's (YHOO) market share on the wane, Bing reached a commendable 10.3% share in November and has become a popular tool for those with an Anti-Google preference.

Microsoft hopes to increase its share by coaxing third parties to integrate Bing into their iPhone apps -- further solidifying a Microsoft-Apple coalition.

In an interview with Yahoo Newsfactor, Michael Gartenberg, vice president of market research firm Interpret, commented on the shrewd business move between the two companies:

"Google is a different animal than it was two or three years ago when it was simply providing a set of services for Apple and the iPhone and now is competing with Apple in the mobile space," Gartenberg said. "I think it was wise of Apple to approve this application and wise of Microsoft to get this application out there and to use this as an opportunity to show some differentiation from the type of things Google offers."

The Bing app itself, however, doesn't represent that much of a difference to Google's app approach.

Rather than reaching the service via the iPhone's Web browser, the Bing app creates a gateway to the search engine without losing the look and feel of the site itself. To an extent, the app mimics Google's integration into its Android mobile OS by allowing for simple voice queries, local map searches, traffic information, and turn-by-turn directions.

For now, despite the strained relations, Google commands a significant presence on the iPhone. Along with being the default search engine in Safari, YouTube remains a major video source for the iPhone and Google Maps is behind its directions and location awareness. But judging from Apple's recent purchase of Pushpin -- a digital map competitor -- Google Maps' days may be numbered. (See The Apple-Google Grudge Match Intensifies)

And aside from the ongoing battle between Google Chrome and Internet Explorer, Google and Microsoft became participants in Rupert Murdoch's war against digital publishing when he threatened to pull his News Corp (NWS) content from Google and feed it directly to Bing -- with Microsoft footing the bill. It may all just be big (and naive) talk on Murdoch's part -- Microsoft denied claims of exclusivity and Google introduced an opt-out feature for news sites -- but the possibility is still there.

Between smartphones, Web browsers, search engines, and soon operating systems, the three tech companies stand to be in a three-way battle royale for years to come. And this certainly won't be the last unlikely partnership to form during the fight.

Especially if a fourth contender emerges.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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