Yahoo Inc. said it had signed a multi-year deal to have its search tools distributed on PCs made by Taiwan-based Acer. Yahoo is hoping the move will help its search engine and other online tools reach users long before they even log onto the Web.
"Users will definitely have customer-oriented solutions," said Acer spokesperson Alison Williams. Acer users will be able to search better, and have a more direct connection to the company's customer service department though a special link. They can also keep updated on upcoming Acer products though a unique module that distributes company news.
Acer is the fourth-largest maker of PCs in the world -- it ranks third in notebook sales globally -- and one of the fastest-growing, with its notebooks in particular gaining popularity as low-cost alternatives to more familiar brand-name options.
Tool Bar, Search Engine
The agreement calls for Acer PCs worldwide to be loaded with a co-branded “Yahoo toolbar” and Web start page and sets Yahoo as the default search engine.
The deal is the latest of many partnerships where major Internet companies are seeking to ensure featured status on the new version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, the dominant Web browsing software.
“Our goal is to give users choice,” Dan Rosensweig, Yahoo’s chief operating officer, said. “We have always lived in a world where people had a choice and wanted to come to us,” he said.
The start page will automatically appear when a user opens a Web browser. That is an especially important consideration going forward as the next upgrade of the Internet Explorer browser, IE7, will default to the Microsoft search engine unless that setting is changed by PC makers. Microsoft built this option into the browser to avoid antitrust complaints.
Included are links to Yahoo services like music and sports updates, a shortcut to Yahoo mail, the Yahoo Messenger IM service, and local information. The start page will have the look and feel of the main Yahoo home page, the companies noted.
Yahoo’s Rosenweig said the deal would give millions of users "one-click access" to the portal's growing menu of Web tools, from Web-based mail and instant messaging to news and Web search.
The deal came just 24 hours after Google announced it had reached a deal to have accounting and money-management software maker Intuit distribute Google tools, such as Web advertising and search features.
Google has signed a string of such deals with major PC makers such as Dell Inc., software makers like Adobe Systems Inc. and media giants like News Corp.; Facebook.com, the social network site popular with college students, has signed Microsoft to supply it with advertising.
Similarly, Yahoo has existing deals to feature its Web search tools with major broadband communications providers in Britain, Canada and the United States.
“They are all trying to build their spheres of influence,” IDC search analyst Sue Feldman said of the competition among Yahoo, Google and Microsoft.
The deal between Acer and Yahoo will provide better usability for the PC maker's customers, said Feldman. For Yahoo, the partnership will let the Internet service expand its ad reach, he noted.
“Acer PCs will start shipping desktops and notebooks in most markets with the new features installed starting Oct. 1,” the companies said. Some of the toolbars and start pages will be customized for the countries where they will be sold.
"Anytime you see a company like Google, Yahoo, or MSN do a deal like this, it is because they want to get their ads in front of more eyeballs," said Feldman. "Being the default on Acer is great for them, because people rarely change default settings. That means they will have a built-in audience."
Acer President Gianfranco Lanci said partnering with Yahoo fit with the company's overall mission of making it easier for customers to make the most of their machines. Their global coverage with strong local engagement perfectly matches Acer's company strategy, he said.
In the big picture, the Yahoo-Acer deal is relatively "mundane," especially when compared to the more innovative partnership between Google and Intuit, search engine analyst John Battelle said. "This is the kind of deal Google was making two years ago," he added.
Not a Blockbuster
Even though the deal is likely a fraction of the size of the Google-Dell hookup, Yahoo has latched onto a growing company in Acer, noted Search Engine Journal editor Loren Baker.
Acer may get a boost in its efforts to sell more PCs in the United States, where it backed off from aggressive growth plans in the mid-1990s but now sees new opportunities. Acer is Europe's top notebook maker and has about a 5 percent PC market share worldwide, according to research firm IDC.
Associating itself with a trusted brand such as Yahoo could help it break down any resistance from buyers unfamiliar with the brand name or wary of its Asian-made products.
"Both companies should profit hugely from the partnership in forms of Yahoo Search Marketing revenue, attracting new registered users to Yahoo properties and other profit sharing," Baker said.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Meanwhile, Yahoo was busy on other fronts. The Web portal released a beta version of an upgrade of its Web mail and said it had struck a deal with TV Guide publisher Gemstar to post TV programming schedules on its Web portal.
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