Is Google's hunger for more Internet users biting it in the behind?
That's the question lurking in my mind today as I mull Microsoft's win of Verizon and Dell as new distributors for Live Search, deals Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced at the Consumer Electronics Show yesterday, Jan. 7.
That comes almost two months after Sun Microsystems agreed to offer Live Search to U.S.-based Internet Explorer users when they download the Java Runtime Environment. Also, Microsoft secured Hewlett-Packard in the United States for search in summer 2008.
Key search distributors are abandoning Google. Why? Is Microsoft undercutting Google's price point for search, as the Wall Street Journal suggested in November? I don't know.
I asked Google about whether or not it was surprised and concerned by Verizon's deal with Microsoft, which Search Engine Land's Greg Sterling correctly sees as a risk for Verizon given that Microsoft is hardly an established player in mobile search. I also asked Google if it saw Verizon's gamble on Microsoft as retribution for Google's 700MHz auction gambit.
The coy company response was:
"We're passionate believers in competition that's good for users. We're committed to working with industry leaders to provide the best user experience possible and develop innovative products and services."
Did you really think Google would take the bait? Anyway, here's what I believe.
Nearly a year ago, Google wreaked havoc on Verizon's nerves and war chest, driving up the purchase price for class C 700MHz spectrum in the name of opening up the Internet so users can more freely access mobile applications and services from any device. Verizon won the spectrum, and had to pay more than the $4.7 billion Google topped out at after several days of being the highest bidder.
I can't help but wonder if Verizon's deal with Microsoft is a little old-fashioned payback. Why else would Verizon partner with what many consider is an inferior search product to Google?
Google is the clear No. 1 search provider, with a daunting 63 percent or so of the market for searches. Because of this position of power, Google regularly raises privacy advocates' hackles because of its potential to collect reams of data about us.
Google's massive gateway to the Web in search -- its Android platform, which could sit on netbooks and other devices -- and Chrome, a speedy Web browser, must scare the daylights out of some companies.
I can't prove that fear is the reason why Verizon and others are shying away from Google, but do I believe it? You bet I do. Google is frightening a lot of people these days, forcing Microsoft to desperately strike mobile and desktop search deals to stop losing search share.
It's the nature of things for people to fear the beast. That beast is Microsoft on the desktop, but it's Googlezilla on the Web.
Of course, if you're a pragmatic person, you might choose to believe the motives of Verizon, Dell, Sun and others that opt for Microsoft or any other option over Google in search are monetary. But I think Verizon and others are sick, and perhaps more than a little wary, of Google's broadening expansion online.
What do you think? This topic is hot on TechMeme today.