As Verizon Implements Bing Default Search Deal, Company Sees User Backlash
The wide-ranging search and advertising deal between Verizon Wireless and Microsoft reportedly cost Redmond between $550 million to $650 million in revenue guarantees over five years, according to prior reports in the Wall Street Journal. The deal specifically exempts Android handsets, such as Droid, from the provision that Bing become the default search engine on Verizon’s mobile devices.
Verizon Wireless is the largest wireless carrier in the US with 89 million subscribers.
As Verizon has begun to implement the Microsoft deal, and involuntarily installed the Bing app on many BlackBerry devices from the server side, it has raised the ire of many of those users.
Here’s Verizon’s official corporate explanation of what’s going on:
With BingTM integrated search capabilities, Verizon Wireless customers will now have easier access to context-relevant search results to improve the mobile experience. Depending on which device they use, customers will be able to use voice commands and typed queries and even select to use location-aware searches to receive highly relevant search results, including maps, directions, traffic information, information on local businesses, movie theaters and show times, gas prices, and weather. In addition, customers will also get search results that include news and entertainment content such as V CAST downloadable full-track songs, ringtones and ring back tones. Verizon Wireless customers will be able to access Bing from a downloadable application or through Verizon Wireless’ Mobile Web services.
The Bing app does offer a very good experience; however the lack of warning or choice in the matter made many Verizon customers apparently angry, prompting this Verizon damage control blog post explaining how to get back to Google:
Verizon Wireless is passionate about ensuring consumer choice in the wireless sector.
Customers still have all the choices they did before. Verizon offers many ramps onto the Internet, including all search engines.
If you love Google and don’t want to use Bing, there are great options . . . Choice is yours. Verizon isn’t blocking or degrading anything; just providing a great option for customers.
Everything is “great” except for the way that Verizon implemented this. It might have been done differently and the outcry might not have happened by simply alerting people that they were going to get the Bing app and they should give it a try. But old-style corporate paternalism won out, Verizon installed the app without prior explanation and now you have a PR snafu (with some legs).
Perhaps there’s a bit of “karmic payback” here for Verizon’s AT&T network bashing, who knows.
Having guaranteed an estimated $500 million or more to the carrier, I wonder what Microsoft’s reaction is to Verizon being compelled by customer outcry to tell its BlackBerry users that “You can ‘mask’ or hide the Bing icon from the webpage. Easy to do” and instead “Download the free Google search client from Blackberry’s Appworld and put it right on your homepage.”
Another interesting thing about this is that it illustrates how the market is changing.
The carrier, Verizon, believes that it can do what it wants and that its top-down decisions will be accepted by users. But carriers are becoming less and less relevant to mobile (especially smartphone) users who see them, as the post above unconsciously points out, as mere “ramps” to the internet.
Users want what they want — in this case “choice,” “control” or maybe or specifically Google — and they don’t want service providers to interfere. It would seem that Verizon hasn’t quite awakened to the new reality.