Apple Considered Alternatives to Google as Default Search Engine on Its Devices
In a recent revelation, court testimonies have shown that Apple engaged in talks with both Microsoft and DuckDuckGo to potentially use their search engines as the default on Apple devices. The information emerged during the trial between Apple and Google, which has been heavily redacted.
According to The Washington Post and Bloomberg reports, Apple’s discussions with Microsoft included the possibility of acquiring or forming a joint venture with Bing, Microsoft’s search engine. These discussions took place in 2018 and 2020. Apple reportedly evaluated the quality of Bing’s search results compared to Google’s, but found Bing to generally perform worse, except for desktop searches in English.
Apple has previously used Bing as the default search service for some of its products, such as Siri and Spotlight, between 2013 and 2017. However, Apple ultimately decided to stick with Google in a deal worth an estimated $19 billion annually.
The news of Apple considering a potential acquisition of Bing was initially reported by Bloomberg. The newly unsealed testimony from Apple senior vice president John Giannandrea sheds more light on the discussions with Microsoft. It is believed that Apple may have used Bing as a negotiating tactic to extract more money from Google during their search deal negotiations.
One internal Apple email that surfaced during the trial suggests that Apple was using Bing to build leverage and keep the take rate from Google while exploring other options. Microsoft was aware of Apple’s tactics and acknowledged that Apple was making more money from Bing’s existence than Bing itself.
Besides Microsoft, Apple also had discussions with DuckDuckGo to potentially make it the default search engine for Safari’s private browsing mode. DuckDuckGo positions itself as a privacy-focused alternative to major search engines. However, Apple’s Giannandrea was not aware of these discussions and even questioned DuckDuckGo’s privacy claims.
According to Giannandrea, DuckDuckGo’s reliance on Bing for search information raised concerns about sharing user data with Microsoft. He stated that if Apple were seriously considering switching to DuckDuckGo, they would need to conduct extensive due diligence.
While Google has been the default search engine on Apple devices for years, these revelations show that Apple has considered alternatives and engaged in discussions with other search engine providers. Although no switch has been made yet, it highlights Apple’s willingness to explore different options and potentially shift away from relying solely on Google for search services.