Comment: Can Apple’s rumor search engine compete with Google?

CAMBRIDGE, England: Little corners of the internet are ablaze with news that Apple has significantly stepped up its search engine activity.

Search bots typically scan websites to rank and index them for search engine results. When you search for something on a search engine, the results it displays are ranked by “ranking,” which means that the result that is most accurate for what you’re looking for is shown at the top.

This increase in activity is also evident alongside pressure from the UK competition committee to break Apple’s multi-billion dollar deal with Google.

The deal makes Google the default search engine for Apple’s iOS devices. Many now expect Apple to be on track to launch its own search engine soon.

READ: Apple develops search engine to compete with Google: Rapport

Apple’s entry into the search engine market comes 11 years after Microsoft’s Bing debuted, Google’s only other notable competitor to date.

FILE PHOTO: A Google search page is seen through a magnifying glass in this photo illustration

FILE PHOTO: A Google search page is seen through a magnifying glass in this photo illustration taken in Berlin, August 11, 2015. (Image: REUTERS / Pawel Kopczynski / File Photo)

Bing is certainly not a success story, despite what Microsoft’s PR team claims, and it continues to pale in comparison to Google’s ubiquitous search platform in terms of economic performance and market power.

In fact, my colleague, Dr. Kamal Munir and I learn a case study on Bing at Cambridge MBA every academic year as a cautionary tale of what happens when you choose to take on deep-rooted platforms.

However, unlike Microsoft’s Bing, Apple’s opening move is very different and will likely yield a better outcome.


One of the bigger mistakes Microsoft made when launching Bing was following the same ad-based business model that Google used. In this business model, search users enter what they are looking for and based on that, the search engine also displays relevant advertisements that may interest them.

To make such a business profitable, you need a very large number of searching users as well as a large number of advertisers willing to sell to them in addition to millions of websites scanned by the aforementioned search bots.

All three are necessary to display useful search results for the user and bring the right customer to the advertiser.

READ: Comment: Apple leads the way with iPhone 12. That could be a problem

In between, Google is paid for matching the right ads with the right users. The more searches are performed, the more useful the results.

The more useful the results, the better the ad targeting. Bing struggled to get this positive cycle going and never really got up to the scale that Google enjoys with its search offering.

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Apple’s search engine will have a different future if the rumors about the business model are true. It has been putting a lot of thought into user privacy lately, including but not limited to publicly denying the FBI secret access to its devices.

It will be very much consistent with this ‘privacy first’ position that Apple chooses not to monetize advertising, which means disclosing user data to third parties.

READ: Comment: When our insatiable hunger for data can also harm the environment

Instead, it could simply sell more of its highly profitable devices and plans to privacy-conscious customers. By not following in Google’s footsteps, Apple does not have to contact the search giant on its terms.


When Bing launched, it had features that Google didn’t have at the time. This included a “hover preview” of search results and some sort of specialization in travel, shopping, local businesses and health screenings.

In terms of quality of search results, Microsoft claimed comparable or better output than Google’s. Despite the product’s apparent superiority, Bing has never won the search engine wars.

This aspect of search engine history favors Apple, which doesn’t need to be different from Google. In fact, Apple’s search results must be “just good enough” to be adopted by users en masse.

An iPhone can be seen in a newsstand at an Apple reseller store in Mumbai

An iPhone that can be seen at a kiosk at an Apple reseller store. (Photo: REUTERS / Shailesh Andrade)

We can see this from the results of Apple cards, which launched in 2012. Despite a publicly rocky launch due to poor geographic coverage, Apple cards have gained a dominant 60 percent market share among UK iPhone users in just under a year. year of launch.

The same goes for Apple Music, which has become the second largest player in music streaming despite a nine-year lead from Spotify.


With the latest iOS 14 update, Apple has already started replacing Google search results in favor of its own. Most iOS users have barely noticed the change for all the reasons mentioned above.

But this silent exchange does not come without its own challenges. By using its search engine in place of Google on its devices, Apple will open itself up to monopoly criticism from competition commissions in various markets.

READ: Comment: Is this the end of Google as we know it?

It will also likely upset the ad industry, which could lose their reach to Apple customers. The Apple customer base is coveted for its above-average purchasing power, and by making it easier for users to avoid search ads, Apple could just be causing a tectonic shift in the ad industry as a whole.

Google’s dominance in Internet search won’t end with Apple’s participation in the search, but it would certainly weaken in light of the growing consumer preference for privacy.

Given that Google’s business model is dramatically different from Apple’s, it’s likely that the search giant would have to learn to live uncomfortably with its rival’s search engine rather than run to compete with it.

Hamza Mudassir is a Visiting Fellow in Strategy at Cambridge Judge Business School. This commentary first appeared in The Conversation.

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