One question for Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) in the wake of the announcement of its search deal with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is how much its search engine will continue to be able to maintain an independent identity. Yahoo is licensing its search technology to Microsoft, but it will still control the look of its pages, flexibility that executives emphasized in an interview with us last week. And in interviews over the last few days, Yahoo executives have given the impression that Yahoo’s search engine will continue to add unique features even once it is being powered by Bing.
Yahoo Labs chief Prabhakar Raghavan tells Reuters that the company is considering adding some real-time search options to its search engine that would let people search for Tweets and also group the results by various categories — like where they were sent from. “In terms of satisfying user intent, the hard work and in some sense the bigger growth opportunities for differentiation are not the back-end of crawling and indexing, but really surfacing and assembling content the right way to satisfy user intent,” he says.
And Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz says that Bing’s logo won’t even appear on Yahoo search results pages — and instead will be called attention to via some text. She compares her company’s new relationship with Microsoft to Intel’s with PC-makers. “The whole experience of what happens when a user comes to Yahoo is still Yahoo’s business,” she tells the NYT. She goes on to say, “We have more patents in search than anyone and we keep our patents. We are only licensing technology — it’s our technology.”
The company is also going ahead with its plans to test a new look for it search results page that will include some elements of its home page redesign. A screenshot surfaced over the week-end showing one design that the company is considering.
Of course, considering that Yahoo has said it made the search deal with Microsoft to concentrate on its other assets, it’s questionable how much the company will want to continue to invest in its search initiatives in the long-run. As many as 400 Yahoo employees could lose their jobs because of the partnership, the NYT says. Others will be transferred to Microsoft.
Meanwhile, Yahoo is also busily trying to convince Wall Street that the market overreacted in sending the company’s stock down following the deal announcement. Bartz acknowledges that she erred by not taking “enough time to explain Yahoo’s future” and also says she “didn’t help by talking about ‘boatloads of cash.’”
At least one fan: Investor and Yahoo director Carl Icahn, who calls the partnership an “excellent deal” in an interview with BusinessWeek.