It seems like the early rumors were not accurate and Bing is not really going to replace Google search in Verizon’s Android phones. But this discussion misses the point completely: Microsoft is willing to pay a lot of money to get its Bing services into Android phones. People are touting this as “Google spent R&D dollars, now Microsoft is reaping the benefits.”
Honestly? I wish Microsoft would reap the benefits. The real benefits. If the Kin had been developed as an Android (reminder: an open-source operating system for smartphones) with some extra widgets I would be delighted. On my Motorola Droid 2, equivalent widgets are available to many of the things the Kin had (social networking widgets, contact widgets, etc.) Let me repeat that — Motorola, a hardware company, managed to outdo Microsoft Kin’s software. That’s because Motorola could leverage the Android OS.
If Microsoft is investing heavily in getting Bing on Android smartphones, this means that it gave up on the battle on Windows 7 phones. I hope they do — that’s more interoperability, and in the end, Google will still win. Why? Because in three years, smartphones will be <$100, even unsubsidized. They will all run Android, except iPhones. Microsoft will pay the handset makers if it wants to put Bing on their phones, and even more for them to hide/disable Google search. Handset makers compete in a tough market — if a given handset will be known as “better search”, it will have an advantage. So either Microsoft Bing Search will be as good as Google’s (but then, why pay for anything other than a small premium on being the default) or handset manufacturers will hesitate on disabling Google search.
Microsoft has finally ceded the OS wars, and is trying to compete on Google’s turf, where it is the newcomer in a game with a competent player. If Windows 7 Phones had won, do you suppose there would even be a question on where the default search would have led? Google needed to spend the money on Android R&D to get to a level playing field. I think their investment will pay off, but whether it does or not, it was still a necessary move. It took the war from OSs, where MS had a traditional advantage, to search (quality and ad-based compensation), where Google is leading.