The software giant that used to take no prisoners is now striking wingspan-widening deals.

A pair of unnamed sources is telling BusinessWeek that Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is in talks with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to make Bing the default search engine on brisk-selling iPhones. Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer are odd bedmates, but it just goes to show the lengths that some companies will go to make Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) jealous.

You can't blame Apple or Microsoft if the news is true. Apple would be nuts to turn down the financial dowry that would likely accompany the move. Microsoft -- now that Bing's ascent has stalled -- can use a prolific cheerleader in the tech world's ultimate tastemaker.

In short, Microsoft has a pocketbook and it's not afraid to use it.

Whether it's forking over $6.6 billion for aQuantive to mask lackluster organic growth or striking a deal to all but take over Yahoo!'s (NASDAQ:YHOO) search business, Mr. Softy knows that now isn't the time to rest on its laurels. Google is a monster. Apple is a monster. Anything that Microsoft can do to create friction between Godzilla and Mothra is a plus, especially if Microsoft can broaden its reach along the way.

The problem here is that Google is too powerful in search. Since it commands more than two-thirds of the country's searches, it's not as if Microsoft can get up to speed by striking Yahoo-esque deals with AOL (NYSE:AOL) or IAC's (NASDAQ:IACI)

The math just doesn't work.


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Source: The Nielsen Company.

Microsoft needs to get creative about tripping up Google, and landing prime real estate on cool iPhones will do that. Apple is selling millions of handsets every quarter, and even if many buyers will simply rub out Microsoft as the default engine or ignore the nudge to switch to Bing elsewhere, many will not. More importantly, the point -- and association -- will be made.

If even Apple turns to Bing, ransom note notwithstanding, Microsoft just got cooler by association. It's not an entire game plan, but it's a worthy first step.

Does Bing have more to gain than Apple to lose if it becomes the default search engine on iPhones? Let us know in the comment box below.

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wonders if we'll even be using search engines 10 years from now. Hdoes not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.