Could Apple be set to challenge Google on its own turf? That’s a very real possibility, according to blogger Robert Scoble, who claims that Apple is preparing to launch its own search engine.
This was a final point in a long Twitter thread (opens in new tab) about things to expect from Apple at WWDC and beyond. Though this is very much in the ‘beyond’ section, so don’t expect an announcement imminently.
Oh, and a new search engine is coming too. Will Siri finally get "smart?" Hmmm.May 28, 2022
Intriguingly, when quizzed by our sister site TechRadar (opens in new tab), Scoble stated that this would be “the most expensive product launch of all time," so it would be a pretty serious undertaking considering the general expense of Apple launches. He told the site that this would likely emerge in January, and that his information was a mixture of conversations with sources and his own deduction.
What isn’t entirely clear is what the scope of this project is. When we think of search engines, we instinctively think of Google, Bing and maybe DuckDuckGo, but search is built into macOS and iOS for finding files, and it’s also where Siri gets its information, so could this be something behind the scenes?
That question was put directly to Scoble on Twitter, and while he said he didn’t know for sure, he indicated that this would be a big thing for Siri in particular:
Don’t know. Where does Siri work today? That is what I am expecting to change.May 28, 2022
Elsewhere, he expanded on this. “Had dinner six years ago with head of Siri at Apple and he laid out why Siri would need to be rebuilt,” he replied (opens in new tab) to someone asking about sources. “We haven't seen that rebuild yet. It will come with the headset.”
But what if it’s something bigger than that, and a real alternative to Google? Well, the whole “most expensive product launch” quote certainly points to that, and the financial incentive is definitely there.
While Google’s parent company Alphabet doesn’t directly split its search revenue in an easily digestible form, we know that ad revenue accounted for around $149 billion in 2021 (opens in new tab), and the lion’s share will be search related.
With Macs, iPads and iPhones now ubiquitous, maybe Apple believes it can genuinely compete, making its own search engine the default in Safari, rather than standing aside for Google.
But doing so isn’t a risk-free endeavor. Google has been the dominant search engine for 22 years now, and alternatives barely have a foothold, even when built by companies not exactly short of R&D funds like Microsoft and Yahoo.
While it doesn’t hurt for Apple to try in theory, the company reportedly takes in over $15 billion a year from Google just for making it the default search engine in Safari (opens in new tab). It’s a lot of money to give up for something that could very easily fall flat on its face.
We shall have to see what — if anything — comes to pass in January.