28 October 2020

Financial Times: “Apple develops alternative to Google search”

In a little-noticed change to the latest version of the iPhone operating system, iOS 14, Apple has begun to show its own search results and link directly to websites when users type queries from its home screen.

That web search capability marks an important advance in Apple’s in-house development and could form the foundation of a fuller attack on Google, according to several people in the industry.

The Silicon Valley company is notoriously secretive about its internal projects, but the move adds to growing evidence that it is working to build a rival to Google’s search engine.

Two and a half years ago, Apple poached Google’s head of search, John Giannandrea. The hire was ostensibly to boost its artificial intelligence capabilities and its Siri virtual assistant, but also brought eight years of experience running the world’s most popular search engine.

Tim Bradshaw & Patrick McGee

Unsurprising, considering recent antitrust actions by the US government, and a rumor that has been circulated for years. The evidence so far is rather weak in my opinion.

Apple could be developing an alternative to Google-search
Apple’s web crawler, Applebot, appears to be increasingly active, suggesting that the iPhone maker may want to create its own search engine © FT montage

Even if Apple were to develop a search product, its success is far from assured. Their digital assistant Siri constantly lags behind competitors. The closest example of Apple launching a service in direct competition with Google would be Maps. But Apple Maps, now eight years old, continues to be less accurate than Google Maps in many parts of the world, has less features and is only available on Apple devices – on the web it can be only accessed since 2019 through DuckDuckGo, with a set of additional limitations. If it follows a similar trajectory, a search product from Apple could slowly mature over the next decade, but being restricted to Apple devices would make it irrelevant for the majority of the world.

Besides, do we really want to replace the dominance of an US tech giant with… the dominance of another US tech giant?!

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