The mobile voice technology now uses Microsoft’s Bing search engine for all mobile web searches.
Amy Dusto , Associate Editor
Whether on-the-go consumers searching for “PS4 store” on their smartphones end up visiting the web site of PlayStation, which makes the PS4 game console, or that of Best Buy Corp., which sells it, may soon depend on whether they are using iPhones.
This week Apple Inc. announced that in its newest operating system, iOS 7, its voice-activated search service Siri will default to return results from Microsoft Corp.’s Bing search engine. Today, a Google search for “PS4 store” returns Best Buy’s web site as the top result; for the same search on Bing, the retail chain doesn’t even appear on the first page. The update does not affect Safari, the web browser that comes installed on all Apple devices, which still defaults to Google’s search engine.
Siri is available on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad with Retina Display, iPad mini and the 5th generation iPod Touch, according to Apple. Users of those devices will be able to download iOS 7 as a free software update this fall, it says.
Microsoft Corp. has provided search results from its Bing search engine for Yahoo Inc.’s web sites since 2010. “Making sure customers can have access to the power of Bing where and when they need it has been a big focus of the work we have done over the past few years, and we are excited to work with Apple to deliver it to Siri users this fall,” writes Derrick Connell, corporate vice president of Bing, on the search engine’s blog.
“If voice-initiated searches continue to grow for mobile searchers, this will become an even bigger piece of the overall search picture and another reason BingAds would be a must-have campaign type for any mobile search effort,” says Marc Weisinger, director of marketing at search marketing agency Elite SEM. “The more people use Siri, the bigger the impact in the search space.”
Apple’s move is another clear swipe at competitor Google Inc., he adds. Google provides Android, the most popular mobile operating system. Apple last jabbed at Google at the end of 2012 when it released the iOS 6 operating system with its own version of a maps application rather than the widely used Google Maps, Weisinger says. The inferior quality of Apple Maps resulted in a heavy consumer backlash that finally led Apple to return Google Maps to its mobile software. Apple, No. 3 in the 2013 Top 500 Guide, did not respond to a request for comment.
Today, Android has the largest number of total users worldwide, but the iPhone and iPad are by far the top smartphone and tablet devices for processing ad impressions, according to Millennial Media’s Mobile Mix Q1 2013 report. But Google mobile devices may gain ground, to the benefit of the Google search engine, Weisinger says. “When Google Glass becomes a bigger piece of mobile-related search for people on the go, do you have any question who will power those results and potentially future ads?”
Meanwhile, Siri continues to improve the quality of its search results and shouldn’t be discounted, says Brian Klais, CEO of mobile marketing vendor Pure Oxygen Labs. For example, Siri already uses Yelp reviews to return local store and reviews information, and in iOS 7 it will also be able to query the user-generated web encyclopedia Wikipedia to answer direct questions. If consumers ultimately are not impressed with the quality of results from alternate sources and demand Google, though, Apple may be forced to reinstate the search engine, as it did with the maps application, he says.
For retailers, the news means that it’s more complex than before to gain visibility in mobile searches, Klais says. “It requires optimizing web media for Google, and possibly now Bing, while also getting stores and venues visible in Siri by driving Yelp social media reviews and check-ins from in-store mobile devices—not to mention recent changes from Google that link a store's Google+ reviews to its visibility in the Google Maps app,” he says.