After months of speculation, the news today is full of reports of a Microsoft-Yahoo deal for search. Here is a CNN article, and I'm sure you can find others.
One thing I've read about the deal is that by using Bing, Yahoo will save on research and other expenses for its own search. Similarly, since Yahoo will focus on the advertising network to monetize the search, perhaps Microsoft will invest less on research there. Of course this is speculative; while I'm sure cost savings will come to mind, I imagine engineering and infrastructure are more obvious place for cost saving cuts than research.
But I am certainly hoping this will not adversely affect the research going on these places, especially at Yahoo, which seems to me to be more at risk (given the company's financial issues over the last several years), and which has really been doing a lot interesting and visible research lately. For example, check out their research blurb on their success at KDD/SIGMOD/PODS. Or check out their blurb on their current featured research project, Similarity Caching.
Let's be clear -- I'm very biased here. My past student Adam Kirsch did a summer internship at Yahoo; my past mentor Andrei Broder is there; I've received some research funding from Yahoo Research and written several papers with researchers there. From what I've seen, I think they're an impressive research organization. Two of their main focus areas are Search and Web Mining and Computational Advertising. I hope that nothing in the deal lessens the importance to Yahoo of supporting and developing research in these areas.