Building a potent search and recommendation engine is a very tricky business that takes years and very specialized teams of engineers. It would be easy to assume that Google (GOOG) has the market sewn up, but despite their dominance on the desktop, the battle for mobile search is ongoing with plenty of market share available. While search is in Google's DNA, the other leading players continue to look to partnerships and acquisitions to drive their efforts.
In particular, Apple's (AAPL) $50 million purchase of Chomp in April was intended to bolster the search and recommendation capabilities of its App Store. However, since the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple has not released any major new products which has led some people to look at Microsoft (MSFT) to lead innovation.
Microsoft has formed strategic partnerships to enhance the capabilities of Bing and mobile search. Its recently announced deal with Mimvi (MIMV.OB) is designed to enhance search and recommendation on Microsoft's Windows Azure and Windows Mobile 8 platforms. Microsoft's $240 million investment in Facebook (FB) gave it more than a share of the company, the deal enabled its Bing team to power searches on the social networking site. Likewise Microsoft's 2009 partnership deal with Yahoo (YHOO) gave the Bing team control of Yahoo's search. Not all is going as well as hoped in this marriage though and Yahoo's CEO, Marissa Mayer, recently met with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer about improving Yahoo's search advertising partnership.
These deals show the complexity of refining search and recommendation. Enhancing users ability to find apps, apps that they actually want is not an easy matter in a world of millions of apps. It is a continually evolving part of technology that requires special teams of engineers to create better user experiences and a better bottom line. Microsoft's partnership with Mimvi underscores this point. Microsoft sees an expertise in the Mimvi search and recommendation engine and the team behind it that it believes will enhance Bing on the desktop and its mobile platforms.
In taking a closer look at the Mimvi management team one gets a better understanding of Microsoft's faith in the company. Mimvi's Founder and CVO, Kasian Franks is best known for founding SeeqPod, a search engine technology company (focused on music) which gained 50 million unique monthly visitors and 250 million monthly searches. Obviously as the CVO, Franks brings the vision to the company, which appears to be forming partnerships with significant players such as Microsoft to bring Mimvi's technology to the widest possible audience.
Joe Abrams is on Mimvi's board of advisors. He specializes in working with smaller technology companies to build shareholder value. Abrams co-founded Intermix (the predecessor company to MySpace) in 1998, which was later sold to News Corp. (NWS) for $580 million. He also co-founded The Software Toolworks, which was sold to Pearson, Plc for $462 million.
Daiwa Quantum Capital, which is led by the former CEO of Sony (SNE), Nobuyuki Idei, also sits on Mimvi's board of advisors. The group seeks growth capital opportunities in Asia with an emphasis on applying Japanese resources to its investments. The presence of such a prestigious group on Mimvi's board augurs well indeed.
Another interesting member of Mimvi's management team is Goetz Weber, a member of the company's board of advisors. Weber is in charge of Partnerships with Social Networks for Samsung's (GM:SSNLF) Media Solutions Center (Americas). Which is very intriguing if you take in account Samsung's relationship with Microsoft. Samsung signed a huge Android-related patent licensing deal with Microsoft last year. Microsoft gets royalty revenue on every Android phone and tablet that Samsung sells. It is not inconceivable then that Microsoft could leverage both its relationships with Mimvi and Samsung to get its search and discovery engine on every Samsung device. This would obviously be an enormous boost to the company's efforts.
Microsoft is forming the right partnerships in the vital, innovative arena of mobile search to fuel growth. I recommend Microsoft as a strong buy.