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.
While Apple has not said anything on the matter, the report has suggested that the hiring of John Giannandrea, Google’s former head of Search in 2018 could have been the starting point of the project. Apple will be able to improve Siri functionality as well with a dedicated search tool. Further, the report says that repeated job advertisements for search-related developers are a big giveaway. A report in XDA Developers said that those monitoring Applebot, the company’s web crawler, have said that it has been more active in the recent months, and has advanced from simply serving Siri and Spotlight results.
Google currently pays Apple somewhere around $8 billion to $12 billion each year to be the default search engine on Apple’s devices. This has caused trouble for Google in the anti-trust probe going on against the company. The US Department of Justice officials has said that the Apple-Google agreement is an example of anti-competitive and exclusionary practice by Google. Apple is aware of Google’s troubles with the Department of Justice, and it only seems sensible that the company is being safe here, in case the anti-trust probes don’t go Google’s way.
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.