Google, Nokia Get Cozier for Mobile Search

Despite the emergence of Android, Google and Nokia look like they will be brothers in mobile arms for a while.

Google's search software is joining the offerings of rivals Microsoft and Yahoo on Nokia's smart phones.

Expanding on a previous partnership, Nokia Feb. 12 said it will integrate Google's search engine with its own search application, a deal that could help expand the search leader's footprint in over 100 countries around the world.

Nokia and Google said in a statement they will put Google search on the new Nokia N96, Nokia N78, Nokia 6210 Navigator and Nokia 6220 classic handsets in select markets; the software will make its way onto additional Nokia handset models in the future.

Nokia Search lets users find applications and files and use local search engines on Nokia smart phones. The application provides direct access with one click from the standby screen, saving users time and steps in searching. From there, users can click once to access an application.

Nokia has comparable deals with Microsoft and Yahoo, so today's deal puts Google on a more equal footing with its rivals. To this point, Nokia had only enabled Google search on Nokia Internet tablets, while Google's YouTube video-sharing property is supported on the Nokia N95.

Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin told eWEEK Feb. 12 that Nokia's Search application currently defaults to Windows Live Search, but the Finnish phone maker lets consumers change that default.

"In this context it makes sense that the customer should be able to choose from any search engine, including the most popular one," Golvin told eWEEK.

Consumer choice sums up the reason for the deal. For both play and work, mobile users are increasingly using search, e-mail, video and other applications on smart phones such as Nokia gadgets, Apple's iPhone and BlackBerry devices. Offering the most popular search provider would appear to be a given, said The Kelsey Group analyst Matt Booth.

"The alternative here for Nokia is to put together a patchwork of many smaller deals to get the coverage," Booth told eWEEK. "They were going down this road for a while with different local providers. It is much simpler for Nokia and better for the consumer to have a uniform search experience across geographies."

The deal comes at an interesting time for Google and Nokia. Just as Google is the leader in search, Nokia is the dominant phone maker in the world and carries with it the Symbian operating system on its devices. Google is looking to crack into the mobile software market with an open-source alternative stack called Android, which debuted on devices Feb. 11 at the Mobile World Congress.

Both vendors are looking to push Internet mobile services in the market, with Google leveraging its mobile applications strength and Nokia pushing its Ovi brand. Unless and until Android makes some headway, the vendors will remain greater allies than competitors.

"With respect to Android, Google's goal is to be everywhere, and that platform, even if successful, will take a very long time to establish meaningful market share," Golvin said. "Therefore, despite the looming competition, each needs the other for the foreseeable future (and likely beyond)."

In the meantime, Booth said the deal could be lucrative to both Google and Nokia. Google typically shares the majority of revenue with large partners, and if Nokia can generate enough traffic, one can assume Google would be willing to share upward of 60 percent of the revenue, Booth said.

"As mobile grows, this could become a good monetization platform for both companies," Booth added.