AT&T Phone Featuring Google’s Android Will Use Yahoo As Default Search Engine

In a shocking move, AT&T’s new Motorola Backflip, which runs on Google’s Android OS, will feature Yahoo as the smartphone’s default search provider instead of Google. This is the first time I’ve heard of a Google Android handset not using the Google Search by itself. Yahoo will be set up to handle mobile Internet searches, though users can still choose Google if they desire to.

David Katz, a vice president at Yahoo, said in an e-mailed statement, “We have a long-standing relationship with AT&T and more than 80 carrier partnerships around the world for our award- winning mobile-search experience. Mobile search continues to be a focus for investment and innovation.”

Meanwhile, Google declined to comment on the Backflip, saying “This is not a Google-branded product and, therefore, product inquiries should be directed to AT&T and Motorola.”

The reason why AT&T can do this is because Android is an open-source platform that allows them to make changes as needed to suit the phones launching on their network, and it’s rather surprising to hear that AT&T has dropped Google for Yahoo.

A possible factor of why they do so is to keep Apple happy in an attempt to hold on their exclusive contracts for the iPhone and the new iPad, which could potentially cost millions of dollars and customers if Apple were to change to another phone service provider. This deal would benefit Yahoo, a distant second to Google in the search market, which aims to become a leader in the lucrative still propagating mobile search market.

In late January this year, Microsoft was in talks with Apple to replace Google with Bing as the default search engine on the iPhone in an effort to boost Bing’s market share and make the growing rift between Apple and Google more prominent. If successful, it could mean that the iPhone, as well as Apple’s desktop version of Safari would make the switch to Bing.

“Apple and Google know the other is their primary enemy,” says one of the people, who’s familiar with Apple’s thinking. “Microsoft is now a pawn in that battle.” Apple is also working on ways to manage ad placement on its mobile devices, a move that would encroach on Google’s ad-serving business, the person says.

“This rivalry is going to accelerate innovation,’ says Andreas Bechtolsheim, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems and an early investor in Google. “Apple goes pretty fast, but having someone chasing you always makes you go faster. This is going to be good for consumers.”

So are AT&T, Motorola, and Microsoft teaming up with Apple to fight against the mighty Google?

Via BusinessWeek