Apple has a search engine ready to go, but isn’t launching it anytime soon

Apple has the resources to introduce its search engine as a potential substitute for Google. Furthermore, Microsoft even had discussions with Apple regarding a possible collaboration in bringing this idea to fruition, reveals a report by Mark Gurman, the notable analyst who covers all things Apple.

Gruman reports that Apple has been developing its search engine as a potential replacement for Google on its devices for years.

Is Apple planning on replacing Google in searches?
The rationale behind this consideration is that search functionality is one of the most frequently used tools on smartphones, tablets, and computers. Apple’s longstanding approach has been to control the core technologies that underlie its products.

Additionally, the financial stakes are substantial, as Apple currently receives a share of Google’s search ad revenue, amounting to approximately $8 billion annually in recent years. The prospect of Apple deploying its search engine successfully could potentially generate income on par with the Apple Watch, assuming it can monetize advertising and search slots at a rate similar to Google.

Although challenging, even if Apple cannot directly compete with Google, it could still enhance its revenue by internalizing search.

Apple is well aware of these opportunities, so it has been experimenting with search technology for quite some time. These efforts yield benefits beyond just launching a Google alternative. They enable Apple to enhance its non-web search capabilities and serve as a valuable bargaining chip in negotiations with Google regarding pricing.

While Google reigns supreme in the search domain, it remains dependent on Apple and its vast user base. Apple is incentivized to direct its customers toward Google if their agreement is intact. Increasing the promotion of Google search translates into higher revenue for Apple.

However, Apple’s internal search technology, once perfected, could potentially offer customers a more integrated and private solution compared to Google. The public has already seen glimpses of this with Apple’s search engines for services like the App Store, Maps, Apple TV, and News.

Pegasus – Apple’s internal search engine
John Giannandrea, a former Google executive overseeing machine learning and AI at Apple, leads a massive team dedicated to Apple Search. Over the past few years, his group developed a next-generation search engine for Apple’s apps, codenamed “Pegasus.” While this technology has been integrated into some Apple apps, it is slated for wider adoption, including within the App Store.

The most compelling evidence of Apple’s search endeavors lies in Spotlight, a tool that assists users in finding content across their devices. A few iOS and macOS versions ago, Apple began incorporating web search results into Spotlight, directing users to sites that can answer their queries. Siri also utilizes this technology for web results.

Giannandrea’s team is actively working to further integrate Apple’s search features into the iOS and macOS experience, possibly enhancing it with their new generative AI tools.

Several years ago, Apple introduced a web crawler named Applebot, indexes websites like Google’s and Microsoft’s crawlers for future search results. It serves to locate sites that can be presented to users through Siri and Spotlight.

Apple also maintains its advertising technology team, which could be instrumental if its search ambitions expand. This team manages search ad functions in the App Store, serves ads in Apple News, the stocks and weather apps, and negotiates advertising deals for streaming sports. It possesses the necessary skills and personnel to lay the foundation for a web search advertising group.

Apple’s AI-based browser?
AI offers Apple a potential entry point into the search arena. The company’s machine learning team has been actively seeking new talent to work on search technologies, and Apple has made acquisitions that could pave the way for a search engine. In 2019, Apple acquired Laserlike, an AI-based search engine founded by former Google employees, which continues to operate within Apple.

It’s worth noting that Apple had an opportunity to acquire Bing but chose not to pursue it, as revealed in recent reports. Apple’s Senior Vice President of Services, Eddy Cue, declined the offer, citing that Apple views Google’s search as the best. However, this stance may be more about shielding Google from potential antitrust actions.

In the grand scheme, Google may remain the preferred choice until Apple believes it can offer a superior solution. Apple already designs its chips, operates an App Store, sells music online, provides video and gaming services, and has an in-house maps app that competes with Google.

The only missing piece of the puzzle is a full-fledged Apple search engine, and while its launch may not be imminent, it could be closer to reality than one might think.

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