Wireless carrier Sprint Nextel Corp. said on Wednesday it will place
Microsoft Corp's search engine on its mobile phones, marking the software maker's most significant step to gain a U.S. foothold in the budding mobile Internet search market.
Starting on Thursday, customers of the third-largest U.S. carrier will
find Microsoft's Windows Live search bar at the top of Sprint's menu page
when they access the Web.
The search engine can look for news, sports scores and ringtones within
the carrier's own mobile portal or search outside of Sprint's network for
local information such as nearby restaurants or movie theaters.
Internet heavyweights Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are racing to strike
alliances with handset makers and carriers all around the world to provide
a host of ad-supported services, including search, to a mobile phone
market expected to near one billion units in 2006.
Sprint and Microsoft will share the revenue from advertisements placed
alongside Windows Live search results and the two companies will work
together to introduce new mobile phones services in the future.
"The search box has fundamentally changed the way people interact with the
Internet, but we have only just begun to scratch the surface for what
search and live Internet services can do in the mobile space," Steve
Berkowitz, Microsoft's senior vice president said in a statement.
Microsoft, a distant third in Web search behind Google and Yahoo, is
spending billions to beef up its Internet services business and grab a
larger share of a growing online advertising market. It has also invested
heavily in its mapping technology, a key feature for local search in
Wireless carriers see great opportunities in search, because the
advertising will bring in a largely untapped revenue stream and it will
also encourage users to pay for more data services.
"It's probably one of the largest opportunities in wireless data services
today," said John Styers, general manager of mobile advertising for Sprint
Analysts note that U.S. wireless carriers have been reluctant to hand over
prime real estate to well-known Web search players, afraid to lose control
-- and profits -- of its "walled garden" of content like music downloads
Google, the online search king, already offers a number of mobile phone
services including search, maps, a mobile version of Gmail and Google
News, but it has not announced a major deal with a US wireless provider.
Google has cemented major alliances with Britain's Vodafone Group Plc and
Japan's KDDI Corp.
Windows Live search will be available to Sprint's data access customers at
no additional cost.