Former foes Google (GOOG) and Verizon (VZ) are close to linking up in a wide-reaching search deal that would make Google the default engine on Verizon Wireless phones, and eventually on Verizon’s Web portal and FiOS TV service, the WSJ reports.
One interesting part of the pact: Verizon eventually wants to put a search bar on the home screen of its phones — a smart move, we think.
Why does this matter? Some 17 million mobile subscribers use mobile search, according to comScore M:Metrics. That’s a pathetic 7% of the U.S. mobile market — which means some 93% of mobile subscribers aren’t using mobile search. Why not? In part because carriers have made it so hard to find. In most cases, if you want to search for something, you have to boot up the mobile Web, then find your way to Google — especially annoying without a QWERTY keyboard — then enter a search.
By building a Google bar into the home screen of phones, Verizon will help make up for years of terrible mobile user interfaces, and could easily juice its subscribers’ mobile Web and search usage. That means more potential search revenue, which is important for both Verizon and Google, and more potential data service revenue if more subscribers sign up for monthly mobile Internet access plans.
Missing from the deal: Any sign that Verizon will sign on to Google’s Open Handset Alliance or sell phones running its new Android operating system. So far, Google only has the support of the two smaller nationwide wireless carriers, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile. Adding Verizon to the mix — currently the no. 2 mobile phone carrier in the U.S., but once its acquisition of Alltel closes, the biggest — would be a big deal.
Meanwhile, any handshake is big progress between the companies, which have spent much of the last three years feuding — in public, at least — over telecom policy. Last year, they brawled over whether the FCC should be allowed to force winning bidders in its wireless spectrum auction to maintain “open” networks that could be used by any wireless gadgets or any software apps. Google won that skirmish, and Verizon eventually won the chunk of spectrum with “open access” requirements for nearly $5 billion.
Before that, the companies fought over “net neutrality” policy — whether a service provider like Verizon could be able to charge a Web content company like Google extra for priority access to its pipes. “The network builders are spending a fortune constructing and maintaining the networks that Google intends to ride on with nothing but cheap servers,” Verizon legal exec John Thorne said in 2006. “It is enjoying a free lunch that should, by any rational account, be the lunch of the facilities providers.”
Verizon: Don’t Blame Us For Your Flaky iPhone!
When Will Google’s ‘GPhone’ Android Operating System Invade Your Living Room? No Time Soon
An Early GPhone Review: Android Is Powerful, But No iPhone
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.