Bing, Microsoft's search engine competitor to Google, hasn't quite made the dent in Google's market share that Redmond had hoped for. But as revealed this week, Microsoft may have just scored an important victory in helping to foster consumer awareness for its search service.
Today, Amazon confirmed to Fast Company that Bing would come as the default search engine on all new Kindle Fires, the flagship product Amazon is positioning against Apple's iPad and other Android tablets. As Business Insider pointed out, the change in default search provider on the Kindle Fire HD, a position owned on previous iterations by Google, won't necessarily be a game changer for Bing. But it's a strong sign that third parties are more open to working with Microsoft in search, and also of the increasingly prickly relationship that Google has with its partners. Could other hardware makers soon follow Amazon's example?
Though Android, Google's mobile operating system, powers most non-Apple hardware, it doesn't guarantee that Google will be the default search provider on its own platform. In addition to the millions of new Bing-equipped Kindle Fires Amazon is likely to sell this holiday season, a number of Android-based smartphones have already replaced Google with Bing, thanks to a partnership between Microsoft and Verizon. Still, these efforts haven't significantly moved the needle for Bing, which still claims a much smaller market share than Google in search. (Microsoft hopes its Windows Phone OS and upcoming Windows 8-based PCs and tablets will help change that.)
Some pundits have started wondering if Bing could receive a significant boost in share through a possible partnership with Apple. A series of telling changes on Apple's mobile platform have signaled to some that Cupertino is distancing itself from Google's services. First Apple was said to be ditching Google Maps in favor of its own in-house solution; next, Apple confirmed that iOS 6, the upcoming version of its mobile operating system, would not include its standard YouTube app. The decisions had some including MG Siegler wondering whether there could soon be a "Google-free iPhone," meaning an iPhone free of Google's maps, YouTube service, and search engine.
Today, we caught up with Mike Nichols, corporate VP and chief marketing officer of Bing, in New York City to ask him about some of these changes. But when asked about possible plans to bring Bing to the iPhone as its default search engine, Nichols said, "Right, I can't answer that one. That's a question for Apple. It's Apple's choice. We talk to them about a lot of stuff—lots of things related to our online services. But they would have to comment on their plans with Google."
Apple did not immediately respond to our request for comment. And certainly Nichols could have given that answer whether or not Bing has a chance in hell of becoming the default search engine on the iPhone. But the circumstances and non-denial denials only add momentum to the suspicion that Apple could be next.
[Image: Flickr user Louis du Mont]