What a Verizon-Google deal would mean for mobile search

Google potentially lock in 68 million wireless customers who would use Google as their primary mobile search engine.
  • Brad Reed (Network World)
  • 27 August, 2008 10:08

With Google reportedly poised to strike a deal to become Verizon's default mobile search engine, many Verizon subscribers may be wondering what's in it for them.

The deal, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal last Friday, would help Google potentially lock in 68 million wireless customers who would use Google as their primary mobile search engine. Verizon is also looking at putting the Google search bar on the home screen of all its phones, the Journal reports, as well as possibly adding it to Verizon's own Web portal and its FiOS television service.

Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, says that the deal makes sense for both Google and Verizon, because Google will be more aggressively pushing its search engine to mobile Web users and Verizon will have an established brand name to help promote its mobile devices. Additionally, Lazar says Google's partnership with Verizon would ensure that Verizon would not offer a competitive search engine of its own, and would also make it less likely that Verizon mobile Web users would go to rival search engines such as Yahoo! or Ask. And because AT&T, currently the nation's biggest wireless carrier, has decided to use Yahoo! for its MEdia Net search engine, Lazar says that a potential pact with Verizon is simply too enticing to pass up.

Telecom analyst Jeff Kagan says Verizon is likely looking to use Google's brand strength to its advantage in order to give customers a service on their mobile phones that they're already accustomed to using on their computers. And because so many users already have an affinity for using Google on their personal desktops everyday, Kagan says that having Google as a default search tool will help users feel more comfortable using mobile Web services.

"Eventually Google may be on all wireless devices," he says. "It looks like Verizon wants to ring the early bell."

Other than having Google as their primary search engine, it isn't yet clear what other benefits Verizon subscribers will accrue from the deal. But if Google's recently expanded deal with Sprint is any indication, Verizon handset users could soon gain access to Google Maps programs made specifically for mobile phones; YouTube videos that have been designed specifically to play within the contours of mobile devices; and location-enabled search and mapping applications. Additionally, Lazar says, Â Google could possibly add advanced options to its default search platform, such as quick access to a mobile version of its popular Google Mail e-mail service.

But even without knowing what extra goodies Google will give Verizon users in a future deal, Lazar says that merely having a trusted search engine readily available will be an attractive feature to smartphone users.

"The biggest advantage of this deal for consumers is providing integrated search capability," he says. "This way they don't have to figure out what search engine to use; most users just want to click on a 'search' button on their phone."