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Microsoft's search deal with HP

The software maker inks a deal to make Live Search the default engine on Hewlett-Packard consumer PCs beginning in January.

A sure way to get some search traffic is to make sure that your engine is the default option inside the browser.

For antitrust reasons, Microsoft can't just make its engine the default in Internet Explorer (except in some very limited circumstances). If it wants to get Live Search on new PCs, it has to strike a deal with computer makers, just as rivals have done.

On Monday, Microsoft announced just such an agreement, with Hewlett-Packard agreeing to make Live Search the default on its consumer PCs starting in January. The computers will also carry a toolbar that uses Microsoft's Silverlight in conjunction with Live Search.

Top executives said recently that they felt the quality of Live Search had reached a point where it made sense to start using some marketing dollars to acquire traffic, so I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first deal of many, especially since Microsoft has yet to reach a deal with Yahoo and its share of the search market has continued to decline.

Microsoft didn't say how much it is paying HP for the right to be on its PCs, but it did call the deal its most significant one to date.

"This agreement with HP is a strategic indicator of our increased focus on securing broad-scale distribution for Live Search," Kevin Johnson, president of Microsoft's platforms and services division, said in a statement. "This is the most significant distribution deal for Live Search that Microsoft has ever done, and we are very pleased to be partnering with HP to help bring Live Search to millions of consumers across North America."