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Sprint Takes Microsoft Up on Local Search Offer

Web-based search is coming to your mobile phone, courtesy of Microsoft  and Sprint .

The companies today said they have struck a deal to offer Sprint's customers Windows Live Search, which includes local maps and directions, over wireless phones.

With Sprint's Windows Live Search for mobile service, customers can use their Web-enabled phones to search location-based content from the Internet, such as nearby stores and restaurants, as well as Sprint's catalog of ring tones, games and screen savers, according to a statement from the companies.

While financial terms were not made specific, there is an advertising sales element to this deal; Sprint and Microsoft will split revenue from sponsored links displayed with the search results, Sprint spokesperson Stephanie Taliaferro told internetnews.com.

Competition is fierce in the segment, with Google, Yahoo and Ask.com already offering mobile search services.

Over the past year, Google has incrementally upped it's testing of mobile search advertising. Yahoo has done the same, announcing a test for banner ads on mobile devices earlier this month.

IAC/Interactive Corporation's search property, Ask.com, also recently debuted a mobile search product.

Still, Taliaferro suggested that the difference between those products and Windows Live Search over Sprint is that the Microsoft product searches both the Sprint portal and the Internet at the same time, offering sort of a mash-up of sports and local businesses.

For example, a customer who searched for "sports" on his or her Sprint phone would see results, including ring tones, wallpapers and applications with "sports" in the title, along with business listings for sports stores, maps, directions and relevant advertisements from local businesses.

The Windows Live mobile search service is immediately available to Sprint PCS Vision and Sprint Power Vision subscribers on all current data-capable phones.

Future versions of the service will enable consumers to give permission to automatically locate them and show the nearest businesses that match their search.