Looking Forward: Are we about to see a search engine from Apple?

For over a decade now Google has ruled the internet. Numerous companies have tried and failed to compete with the impenetrable force of Google’s search engine, Microsoft and Yahoo being the closest contenders, with Bing taking 20% of the US search engine market share and Yahoo managing 12%. Although Yahoo recently made some headway following their deal with Firefox as the default search engine, this seems to have been short lived with users opting to return to Google, and so it is that marketers have been caught in a cat and mouse game with the world’s most successful search engine.

The beginnings of Google came about in 1996 when Larry Page and Sergey Brin collaborated on a search engine called Backrub. They registered the domain name Google.com in September 1997 and the rest is history. Since then search engines have become ever more advanced, able to deal with increasingly complex queries and requests. Google can now answer voice queries, predict what you’re going to type, give you the exact times for sunrise and sunset anywhere in the world and even perform tricks (type ‘tilt’ into Google), not to mention delivering an unprecedented degree of the personalization.

Since Google’s launch, other companies have struggled to match the quality of results, but could this be about to change? It seems there may be a new contender is the world of search, the mighty Apple. Apple hasn’t traditionally operated in this area, instead focusing on devices and their operating systems.
Some people in the search industry claim that Apple have been preparing to enter the arena for a while now. They hired a former Amazon executive with a strong background in search to evolve Siri while a developer in Belgium discovered a web crawling bot from Apple’s servers. In 2010, Piper Jaffray, an asset management and investment banking company suggested there was a ‘70% chance of Apple launching its own mobile search engine by 2015.’

More recently, Apple have been bold enough to advertise a job on their website for a project manager to work on ‘a search platform supporting hundreds of millions of users’. Claiming that the person who gets the job will ‘play a part in revolutionizing how people use their computers and mobile devices’, Apple clearly aren’t afraid to announce their intentions to enter the world of search. The burning question in everyone’s minds is do they actually stand a chance of creating a successful search engine?

Apple have always wanted to keep their users within one ecosystem and have a loyal following of customers who will only use their products. What’s unclear is whether Apple actually want to compete with Google at search, or if they just want to provide a default search engine for their users. Chances are it’s probably the latter.

Apple and Google used to get along fairly well, but it seems their relationship has broken down in recent years after Apple learned Google would be entering into the smartphone market. Although Apple can rely on its own products in most areas, this isn’t the case with search. With their agreement to use Google as the default search engine (which has been running for five years) for Safari due to come to an end this year, the prospect of their own search engine is perfectly timed.

Apple probably knows that people aren’t going to instantly swap their search engine to Apple Search. However, they’ve probably concluded that some people who use their products like Safari and Spotlight might not switch their search engine straight back to Google. Apple like to keep their customers locked into the Apple world, and with an Apple search engine reducing iOS users’ reliance on Bing and Google, this is just another way of doing it.

Firefox’s move away from Google as their default search provider had had a small impact on Google’s market share and perhaps the launch of an Apple search engine could do the same. Though it won’t come anywhere near close to competing with Google, Apple Search is a clever way for Apple to break their ties. Let the war between Google and Apple continue…