With the Verizon-Bing deal, has Microsoft found a chink in Google's Android armor?

Reports say that Verizon will use Bing and Microsoft services rather than Google as the default search for all future Android phones. If true, that could put a crimp in Google's revenue projections for Android, and be a big win for Microsoft. Given that Google gives away Android for free, if it doesn't get revenue from search, where will the money come from?

The Droid Guy reports that he has heard from two Verizon sources that Google Search will be dropped from future Verizon phones, and Bing will be offered in its place.

There's some backup to that, because Verizon's Samsung Fascinate has dumped Google Search for Bing. And it's not just search that has been dumped in favor of Microsoft --- so have other services such as Google Maps.

More troublesome for Google is that you can't change the default from Bing to Google Search --- Bing appears to be baked into the firmware. Fellow Computerworld blogger JR Raphael notes that no matter what you do, when you press the Search key on the Fascinate, you'll launch Bing. He writes:

Verizon has adjusted the Fascinate so that it's impossible to change the default search engine away from Bing (at least, without performing some advanced and potentially warranty-voiding hacks). The carrier even appears to have gone as far as to hide the downloadable Google Search app from the Android Market.

Given that, most users of Fascinate will use Bing in lieu of Google. Multiply that number by all future users of Verizon Android phones, and it adds up to plenty of money, if the rumored Verizon-Bing deal is true.

Where Verizon goes, other wireless providers may follow, which could compound the problem. That could leave Google in the position of spending significant amounts of money for Android development, while Microsoft reaps a significant portion of the revenue generated by Android phones.

There's no doubt that if Bing does become the default search for Verizon's future Android phones, Microsoft will pay through the nose for it. Google can always try to outbid Microsoft to make Google the default search for other providers, and eventually for Verizon as well. That would mean that Google would have to pay double --- once for development of Android, and second to have Google as the default search. So either way, Google loses.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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