Apple in talks with Microsoft to make Bing default search engine on the iPhone

Apple and Microsoft are reportedly in talks to make Microsoft's Bing the default search engine on the iPhone.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend"

At Macworld 1997 in Boston, Steve Jobs surprised everyone when he announced a new partnership with Microsoft, a company, which at the time, was still considered Apple's arch-nemesis. The terms of the agreement stipulated that Microsoft would invest $150 million into Apple and continue to support Office on the Mac for the next 5 years. In exchange, Apple agreed to drop its lawsuit against Microsoft for copying the "look and feel" of the Mac GUI while also agreeing to make Internet Explorer the default web browser on the Mac.

Nearly 13 years later, Apple and Microsoft are reportedly in talks to strike another deal, one that would make Microsoft's Bing the default search engine on the iPhone. According to Business Week, sources close to the matter have said that Apple and Microsoft have been in negotiations over the past few weeks, and even if a deal isn't ultimately reached, the fact that Apple is considering it underscores just how seriously Apple views the threat from Google and its ever expanding range of products/services.

Over the past few months, the relationship between Apple and Google has done a complete 180. One minute, Google CEO Eric Schmidt is a member of Apple's board of directors, and the next thing you know, Schmidt resigns due to conflicts of interest and Google and Apple are battling it out over Apple's rejection of Google Voice from the iPhone.

Flash forward a few months, and not only is Google's Android OS gaining in popularity, but Google now has their own phone in the form of the Nexus One. It's also worth noting that in the past few months, Apple purchased a mobile mapping software company and a mobile ad company, 2 acquisitions which certainly encroach onto Google's turf. Apple, of course, likes to control as much of the underlying technology in its product as possible, and they may very well be wary of Google's growing influence on the iPhone where two Google products, Maps and YouTube, appear on the homescreen.

As it stands now, the only search options for mobile Safari are Google and Yahoo, though there is a Bing iPhone app users can download from the app store. Fans of Google Search need not worry, though, because even if Apple does strike a deal to make Bing the default search engine on the iPhone, users will inevitably be able to switch back to Google if they so choose. Still, the message from Apple to Google is undeniably clear.

Interestingly, Business Week notes that even if Apple chooses to make Bing the default search engine in Safari, it may not be a long lasting relationship.

Even if it's consummated, an Apple-Bing deal may prove short-lived. The person familiar with Apple's thinking says Apple has a "skunk works" looking at a search offering of its own, and believes that "if Apple does do a search deal with Microsoft, it's about buying itself time."

Well, Apple will be showcasing the next version of the iPhone OS in just a few days, and maybe we'll be able to catch a glimpse of the search bar in Safari when Steve Jobs shows off some of the new features.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.