In a first of its kind deal between a major search provider and a large wireless carrier, Sprint has tapped Microsoft to provide search and pay-per-call ads to its subscribers.
The deal will make Microsoft’s fledgling Windows Live Search for mobile product available to Sprint wireless users. Along with Sprint ring tones, games, screen savers and other services, Sprint users will be able to use the Windows Live Search technology to perform local area searches, according to the companies. Ingenio is providing the pay-per-call infrastructure.
“This is really the first major deal where a brand name Internet search provider and a carrier are getting in bed in a major way,” Mark Donovan, VP and senior analyst with M:Metrics, a mobile metrics research firm. “Sprint has been beaten up in the public markets recently because of their performance, but they’ve been doing very well in being a leader in data services, in getting their subscribers to do more than just talk on the phone.”
Meanwhile, Microsoft is trying to show off its strength in search and compete with Yahoo and Google in the mobile space, where both competitors have recently unveiled advertising initiatives. The Sprint arrangement is Microsoft’s first partner collaboration on mobile sponsored links, though the company previously offered mobile ads via its direct channel at mobile.live.com, according to a spokesperson. It has also done display advertising pilots in the US and Japan.