[PHOTO AT LEFT - Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi and Qi Lu, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg (left to right) discuss the new Facebook-oriented results on Bing. (Credit: Tom Krazit/CNET)]

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INTERNET, OCTOBER 16, 2010 (COMPUTERWORLD) By Sharon Gaudin - Could Google's Achilles heel be showing as Facebook teams up with Microsoft?

Microsoft advanced its partnership with Facebook this week, a move that could represent the biggest threat to Google's search standing yet.

Microsoft and Facebook announced that they're teaming up to make Internet searching more social. Now when someone uses Microsoft's Bing search engine to look for a new car or a book, she can see which ones her Facebook friends liked. It will now be easier for searchers to get their friends' opinions before they make purchasing decisions.

Industry watchers said this was an interesting development for search in general, but it also holds big implications for Google in particular. What's notable is that Facebook turned to Microsoft for this deal and not to the search market leader, Google.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, speaking at the press conference on Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Wash., on Wednesday, said there was a specific reason he wanted to go with Bing.

"They really are the underdog here," Zuckerberg said. "They're incentivized to go out and innovate. They have all these smart people and are trying to do all these new things."

Google, not surprisingly, dismissed the notion that the deal may have any far-reaching implications and said it welcomes the challenge.

"We welcome competition that helps deliver useful information to users and expands user choice," said Gabriel Stricker, a Google spokesman, in an e-mail to Computerworld. "Having great competitors is a huge benefit to us and everyone in the search space. It makes us all work harder, and at the end of the day our users benefit from that."

But industry analysts said this Microsoft-Facebook partnership could spell trouble for Google, despite the fact that the search giant handled 72.15% of all U.S. searches last month.

Both Microsoft and Yahoo have thrown stones at Google, but nothing has yet chipped its hefty search lead. When the two companies combined their search engines in August, the dominant search company barely blinked. So, if Microsoft couldn't rattle Google when it teamed with Yahoo, which is No. 2 to Google in terms of search market share, why might Microsoft's new partnership with Facebook have Google executives looking nervously over their shoulders?

"Let's face it, Bing has been a big disappointment, but this could act as a differentiator," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research. "People prefer Google to Microsoft, but they prefer Facebook to Google. If the partnership makes Facebooking better, then it could pull users away from Google."

In other words, a major social network, like Facebook, could end up being Google's Achilles' heel.

Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner, said the partnership announcement was less about Facebook and Microsoft than it was about Facebook vs. Google.

There is a battle for the future of the Web, and it is not about search engines, but about the social Web. Gartner analyst Ray Valdes "The real importance of [this week's] announcement is that it highlights the growing strategic conflict between Facebook and Google," Valdes said. "There is a battle for the future of the Web, and it is not about search engines, but about the social Web. The competition is between the new and the old -- between Facebook as the early leader in the social Web, and Google as the dominant player in the content Web. Everyone else, such as Microsoft, Yahoo and Twitter, will play a secondary role, and will start lining up on one side or the other."

And what could make this situation more interesting is that Google is reportedly working on launching its own social network. Rumored to be dubbed Google Me, it's considered to be Google's shot at creating a Facebook killer.

Google hasn't had a lot of luck in the social networking arena. Its Google Wave social networking service was shut down in August and reviews of Google Buzz were lackluster. But the company has learned from its failures and may be ready to try to pull some of those advertising dollars away from Facebook.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said there's a big battle brewing between Google and Facebook, and Microsoft may have found a way to use that conflict to chip away at Google's massive market lead.

"[The Microsoft-Facebook partnership] moves some searches from Google to Bing," he added. "For major Facebook users, I believe 'social search' is attractive, and many are likely to switch to Bing for all searches... Not only does [Google] lose users, but they lose young users."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is


Windows Phone 7 is the real Facebook phone By Tim Carmody, WIRED October 15, 2010 -- Updated 1130 GMT (1930 HKT) | Filed under: Mobil

When Microsoft and Facebook announced that they were partnering to integrate Facebook and Bing for social network-powered search, it confirmed something I thought Monday: Windows Phone 7 is the real Facebook phone.

I don't know whether Facebook has a secret team working on a phone where they control the OS. But the company don't need one. It's already deeply integrated into Android and iOS. Now with the Microsoft partnership, it's tied to the most socially optimized smartphone ever brought to the market.

"This is, I think, one of the most exciting partnerships we've done on the platform so far," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the Bing announcement Wednesday. "Our view is that over the next five years we expect that almost every industry is going to be disrupted by someone building a great product that's deep in whatever area that industry is, plus is extremely socially integrated."

The first Windows Phone 7 handsets are due in stores November. The OS is Microsoft's complete do-over on mobile, after its predecessor Windows Mobile tanked in popularity and market share in the wake of more consumer-savvy handsets such as Apple's iPhone and Google's Android-powered smartphones.

Every aspect of Windows Phone 7 is geared to social networks: phone, contacts, gaming, photos, even Office. Focusing the phone around Hubs doesn't just mean that local client apps and cloud apps are grouped next to each other. It means that the local client and cloud work together.

Microsoft tried to explicitly build a social networking phone featuring Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and MySpace with the Kin. The Kin failed and was killed by Microsoft, mostly because it wasn't a full-featured smartphone (it was a fork of Windows Phone 7), but required a smartphone's data plan.

The Kin's cloud-backed social and sharing components lived on in Windows Phone 7. They were always there. Only now, Flickr and MySpace are nowhere to be found.

Even before the Bing announcement, Facebook was a conspicuous part of the WP7 presentation. Microsoft's Joe Belfiore outlined a scenario where users could take a photo on their phone that's then uploaded to Facebook automatically, without even opening the Facebook app.

In the press release for WP7, Microsoft notes that "the customizable Start screen with Live Tiles provides real-time updates so you can keep tabs on the latest weather forecast, your favorite band, a friend's Facebook page and more, all with just one glimpse" [emphasis added].

That wasn't an accident. The Facebook-Bing partnership was already happening.

It's the exact strategy that Zuckerberg outlined in his interview with Michael Arrington, where he explained why Facebook wasn't building its own phone.

Zuckerberg only made an offhand reference to WP7 in that interview: "If Windows Phone 7 takes off, then I'm sure we'll put resources on that." But he added, with reference to their efforts with the iPhone and Android, "The question is, what could we do if we also started hacking at a deeper level, and that is a lot of the stuff that we're thinking about."

In order to do that, Zuckerberg explained, you need to find a company that was willing to incorporate social networking from the operating system up -- not just adding a layer on top of it was already doing, but making that the focus of the device and its services.

At least one of those companies is Microsoft.

"We started thinking what would social search look like, and we started looking around for partners," Zuckerberg said. "Microsoft really is the underdog here and they really are incentivized to try new things."

He was talking about search, but he may as well have been talking about phones.

Microsoft may be the underdog in search and phones, but it's actually been ahead of the curve in terms of incorporating social layers into its products. The Zune had song and photo sharing between devices over Wi-Fi before the iPhone was even announced.

But that was a closed network, limited to just Zune-to-Zune, and later Zune-to-Xbox. In order to get outside of itself, Microsoft partnered with Facebook early on -- it still owns part of the company -- and Facebook helped shape Microsoft's social strategy.

Microsoft has been quietly building a social network without anyone actually noticing. Windows Live, Office Live, Xbox Live are all social networks where users work, share files and talk about media together. You use the same identity across all of those services on every Microsoft device.

Facebook is already embedded in all of them: It's built into Messenger, Hotmail and Outlook, and it's what powers part of the social dimension of Xbox Live. And Bing is already embedded in Facebook, in the form of maps and search results.

Now Facebook's information is embedded in Bing search. And search is one of just three buttons on every WP7 phone.

Consequently, Facebook's partnership with Bing isn't just about Google> It isn't just about "Like" results showing up when you search in a web browser on your PC.

It's about incorporating a social layer into media on every device in your household, from your phone to your set-top box. It's about making those devices smarter in how they communicate with each other and from one platform to another.

That's what stood out to me most at the Windows Phone 7 launch event. The Office people demonstrated how to use Windows Live to stream a PowerPoint presentation from a Windows PC to a Mac.

The Xbox people were showing how to chat about a Netflix movie with your Facebook friends on Xbox live. The hardware people were showing off a wide-angle HD webcam that will let families chat with families from their living rooms. Deep integration of devices, media and services -- using the cloud to power person-to-person interaction through voice, images and text.

If we think about Apple's attempt with Ping to bring a social layer to iTunes (which has been criticized, in part, because Apple didn't partner up with Facebook), Sony's idea of a multitasking television set or Twitter's plays to get on the television screen with Google TV, it's clear that that's where we're heading.

The only places where Microsoft and Facebook are "underdogs" are search and smartphones. When it comes to social networking and smart partnering with other companies -- including each other -- the two giants are way ahead of the field.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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