Apple is allegedly engaged in discussions with Microsoft to use Bing as the iPhone's default search engine, according to a Jan. 20 story published in BusinessWeek, which drew its information from "two people familiar with the matter."
"Apple and Google know the other is their primary enemy," the article quotes one of those unnamed sources as saying. "Microsoft is now a pawn in that battle."
When reached for comment by eWEEK, a Microsoft spokesperson said that the company "does not comment on rumors or speculation."
Should that scenario actually unfold, it will prove an indicator of the growing competition between Apple and Google, whose search engine is currently the iPhone default. Even before Google CEO Eric Schmidt stepped down from Apple's board of directors in August 2009, analysts and the blogosphere had been commenting on how the two companies were increasingly pitted against one another in the smartphone operating-system arena.
Porting Bing onto the iPhone would perhaps allow Microsoft to gain some additional market share in the U.S. mobile search space, which is currently dominated by Google. According to the statistics site StatCounter, Google occupied some 95.26 percent of that market as of Jan. 10; by contrast, Yahoo occupied 3.78 percent and Bing, 0.59 percent.
Apple and Google are predicted to compete more heartily in the smartphone operating-system space in years to come, with research firm Gartner predicting that Google Android will become the second-most-popular mobile OS in the world by 2012, surpassing the iPhone.
Recent numbers produced by Nielsen are slightly different, pegging Bing at 11 percent of the mobile search market and Google at 86 percent.
Microsoft's own mobile operating system, Windows Mobile, is facing declining market share despite the October 2009 release of Mobile 6.5, which was supposed to stop that erosion with features such as improved touch capability. Although rumors circulated earlier in January that the company would debut Windows Mobile 7 at February's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, subsequent scuttlebutt has suggested that Microsoft will offer a new version of Mobile 6.x instead.
"We're going to have some new things that we'll talk about at Mobile World Congress," Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division, said during a press conference at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. "When you look at the product, I'm sort of like, I have the luxury of having seen it, to be able to look at it and played with it a little bit, but I'm certainly confident people are going to see it as something differentiated."
By not mentioning the name of that "product," however, Bach seemed to give himself wiggle room for whatever Microsoft may choose to show in Barcelona.