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Bing And Freedom From Choice

This week a report surfaced that Apple may be considering a deal with Microsoft that would make Bing the default search engine for the iPhone. No doubt some people will say, "What's the big deal? It's just the default search engine, I can still choose to use any search engine I want." That might not be exactly true.
This week a report surfaced that Apple may be considering a deal with Microsoft that would make Bing the default search engine for the iPhone. No doubt some people will say, "What's the big deal? It's just the default search engine, I can still choose to use any search engine I want." That might not be exactly true.For a glimpse into the Bingified iPhone's future, you might look to how Verizon Wireless handled its Bing deal with Microsoft. Over the past month, Verizon BlackBerry users have awakened to find that their devices have been updated. The search box has a new Bing logo and it's the "default" search engine. More importantly for most users, the ability to choose a search engine is gone. To make things worse, the update itself has caused some phones to crash. The result is a lot of angry customers (warning, strong language).

Verizon's response has been to describe a series of steps that customers can take to restore their search functionality to something close to what they had before Verizon changed it without asking. It involves going to Google in the browser to search, or downloading other search applications from their store. But you won't find any retreat or apology for what they did. Remember all that fine print in the agreement you signed? It says they can change anything they want on your phone, any time they want, without asking for any further permission.

When software takes these kind of actions on desktop PCs, we call it search engine hijacking. I don't see any reason to give it a different name on mobile devices. It's one thing to ship a device pre-configured to use Bing. It's another thing entirely to reconfigure a user's existing phone and remove functionality so that you can try to grab even more money from them. Customers are not a cash cow to be tormented as they are milked.

If Apple does a deal with Microsoft, let's hope they don't pull the same antics as Verizon did and claim they have the right to reconfigure the phone to remove features. Given Apple's authoritarian control of their App Store, they could conceivably try something even more heavy-handed and try to block search solutions that outshine the one they build in with Bing. Verizon was willing to sell out its customers for a $500,000 deal with Bing. I wonder what Apple's price will be.