Apple is reportedly fast-tracking the development of a search engine to take on Google Search. Although there has been speculation for some time now that the Cupertino company is building a Google Search alternative, the latest report is based on the enhanced search functionality offered on iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, which doesn’t require Google support to answer user queries. Apple had earlier this year also posted job openings for search engineers in an indication that it was moving forward with a native search engine. Additionally, the US antitrust lawsuit against Google threatens the payment Apple receives every year from Google for letting it be the default search engine on iPhones and iPads.
According to a report by Financial Times, Apple’s move to bring standalone Web searching capabilities to iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 is a “growing evidence” that the Tim Cook-led team is all set to take on Google with its own search engine. The latest software updates allow users to start searching for Web results by swiping down the search box on the home screen. This brings direct links to the websites instead of showing results from Google.
Apple didn’t give much emphasis to the new addition at the time of announcing the new iOS and iPadOS versions at its virtual WWDC 2020 conference in June. However, its website detailing the features of the new software updates does carry a dedicated search section with some details.
“Searching the web is now easier than ever. Start typing and see relevant websites and web search suggestions displayed at the top, making it easy to quickly launch Safari for a full web search,” the company mentions on its website.
The FT also pointed out that Apple hired Google’s head of search John Giannandrea in 2018. That hiring appeared as a move to uplift the company’s existing artificial intelligence capabilities and its Siri assistant. However, Giannandrea comes with an eight-year experience of working on Google Search.
Alongside Giannandrea, Apple recently started hiring search engineers that could eventually help build a strong competitor to Google’s search engine.
Apple is getting a massive, $8-12 billion (roughly Rs. 59,227-88,841 crores) fee per year from Google for keeping its search engine as default on iOS devices. However, just last week, the US Justice Department sued the search giant for paying billions of dollars to companies including Apple to retain its dominance in web search.
That antitrust case may eventually leave Apple without the money it gets from Google. At the same time, Apple will need an alternative if the deal it has with Google for its search engine is struck down by regulators.
Apple already owns a Web crawler called Applebot that helps the company index a large number of websites on a regular basis. The company confirmed the existence of its bot in 2015 and projects it as a solution to provide search results via Siri and Spotlight Suggestions. However, it could be used for a broader purpose — if and when required.
That said, Apple hasn’t said anything publicly about building a Google Search alternative, so this report is still speculation at this point.
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