Staking claims

America’s new Big Three – Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo – continue to rush to buy up real estate for their search boxes. Google has just signed a deal with Dell that will ensure that the Google toolbar is preinstalled on all Dell PCs sold to consumers and small and medium-sized businesses; the two companies will also launch a cobranded portal, which Dell owners will be directed to automatically. This is another preemptive counterstrike by Google against Microsoft’s control over the default search setting in the new version of Internet Explorer. While Google recently complained to the government about Microsoft’s default setting, its CEO, Eric Schmidt, crowed about how customers can just “turn the Dell machine on, and everything is integrated right there. [It’s] a turnkey solution for search.”

This deal comes on the heels of Yahoo’s announcement earlier today of a partnership with eBay, which will enable Yahoo to provide ads and search services on the auction site. Earlier, Microsoft struck a deal to be Amazon’s search partner, and Google bought the rights to supply search at AOL’s site. It’s rumored that at least Microsoft and Google are currently in talks to become MySpace’s search partner.

The big question remains: How much are the Big Three paying? With the exception of the release of some details about the financial arrangements between Google and AOL, the parties have been closed-mouthed about the terms of the deals. It’s pretty clear that the owners of the real estate – Dell, AOL, Amazon, eBay – will make money with these arrangements. How much the Big Three will end up taking home is as yet unknown. It seems unlikely, though, that it’s a buyer’s market.