Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is bringing the latest Nokia Lumia models in line with other Windows Phones by locking the default search engine as Bing instead of letting users change it to Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), reports Tom Warren for The Verge, though at least some European models of the Lumia 630 and Lumia 930 appear to be unaffected.
The change wasn’t previously announced, but it’s also not particularly surprising. Windows Phones always use Bing as the default search option (users can still navigate to the Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) website and use it directly), so this is just part of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) integrating Nokia with the rest of its mobile unit. Older Lumia phones that update to the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system haven’t been affected by the change.
Microsoft and Google are in very different situations
Google Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android mobile OS also starts with Google as its default search engine, though people have the ability to change it to whatever alternative they prefer. On the surface the two situations may seem similar, handset makes are trying to drive traffic to their own search engine, but Google would have a lot more to lose if it took such a bold move. First, Android is an open source project so if Google were to make a feature that people both hated and hinted at future clampdowns on user customization it would risk a major fork in the code and losing some control over the direction over Android.
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has also been the defendant in a steady stream of anti-trust lawsuits claiming that it uses its dominant position in search to promote other businesses, and as a twist on the theme it’s now being sued for using its huge mobile OS market share to promote its search engine. With such a small sliver of both the mobile OS and search markets, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) probably doesn’t have to worry about legal action.
But that doesn’t mean reducing people’s options is a smart move. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has established Windows Phone as a small but not insignificant third mobile OS after Android and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS. Locking people out of their favorite search engine may not be the one feature that spoils that effort, but a trend of putting cross promotion ahead of user experience isn’t promising.