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BellSouth shakes Google's hand

The carrier swaps out its less sophisticated homegrown search engine for one powered by Google.

BellSouth announced on Monday that it has teamed up with Google to provide search capabilities to its Internet and broadband customers.

The carrier swapped out its less sophisticated homegrown search engine for a Google-powered one. The new search capabilities are part of the company's redesigned home page, which launched March 31. BellSouth hopes that adding Google's search capabilities will help entice customers to stick with its service.

The carrier said that unlike portals other Bells offer, it manages and aggregates its own content. The Google partnership is just one more element on its home page. Google has similar deals with other broadband and Internet service providers. For example, it has also partnered with America Online to power its searches.

"The addition of BellSouth, a leading domestic ISP, to Google's growing network of partners demonstrates the continued value we provide to ISPs through a broad set of innovative products that drive subscriber loyalty and profitability," Joan Braddi, vice president of search services for Google, said in a statement.

Scoring a deal with BellSouth, which has more than 2 million retail subscribers, is a big win for Google. BellSouth is the first Baby Bell that has chosen to partner with the search giant. SBC Communications has an established relationship with Yahoo. The two offer a co-branded Internet service that includes Yahoo search capabilities.

Google's deal with BellSouth could pave the way for partnerships with other Baby Bells. MSN, the Internet division of Microsoft, has recently backed away from deals with digital subscriber line providers. It ended a co-branding relationship with BellSouth last September and terminated a similar partnership with Qwest Communications in July 2003.

MSN, which has lagged in the search business, is pouring more money into research to develop software to compete with rivals Google and Yahoo.

While the deal with BellSouth is part of Google's continued efforts to push its existing search services, the company is also expanding its business model with new services.

Just last week, Google announced its new free e-mail service, Gmail, which will challenge Yahoo Mail and Hotmail. The new service, expected to be in public testing later this month, provides users with 1 gigabyte of storage--more than 100 times the storage capacity offered by free versions of the Yahoo and MSN services. It also offers a new way to store and search for messages.

BellSouth, which offers its own e-mail service, said it has no plans to integrate Gmail directly into its home page.