BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) will integrate Microsoft’s Bing search engine with all of its new devices released in the U.S. The arrangement could help Microsoft compete with Google in mobile search, a channel in which the latter’s dominance is even more pronounced than in the desktop arena.
The partnership will introduce Bing as the default provider for both search and mapping technology across all of RIM’s hardware, replacing Google, it’s current source for those services. The agreement will also extend to select international markets, Microsoft said, and will apply to all of its connected devices, including tablet devices such as its recently launched PlayBook product.
According to online analytics provider StatCounter, over 95 percent of mobile searches in North America were conducted using Google during the month of March, compared with 1.4 percent via Bing. Online measurement company comScore doesn’t measure mobile search traffic, but pegs Bing’s share of searches in the online space at around 14 percent.
In the cell phone market RIM has been flagging, losing share to manufacturers utilizing emerging platforms such as Google’s Android operating system, and of course Apple thanks to the popularity of its iPhone handset. Despite that fact, it still manufactured over 8 percent of the handsets being used in the U.S. during the three-month period ending February, comScore estimated.
That kind of penetration could help Microsoft significantly increase the reach of its mobile search offering, albeit from a small base. The company already monetizes searches from BlackBerry devices through PPC ads, suggesting it could also help deliver more incremental revenue through that channel.
Alongside the RIM deal, Microsoft also hopes to increase its mobile search audience through the OS partnership it agreed with Nokia in February. That arrangement will see Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 7 platform powering all future Nokia devices, and will install Bing as the default search provider on those handsets. Although Nokia’s share of the connected devices market is relatively meager in the U.S., the manufacturer enjoys significantly more traction in other markets such Western and Northern Europe, for example.
Microsoft’s interest in mobile search is unsurprising, given the significant pace it appears to be gathering among consumers. Based on aggregated client information, Publicis-owned search agency Performics released data last week suggesting 9.6 percent of all search ads were viewed on mobile devices during the first quarter of the year. That represents 195 percent growth over the first quarter of 2010, the company said.
Even more intriguing from a revenue perspective is the fact that growth in clicks on mobile ads actually outpaced that of impressions, increasing 230 percent over the same period.