Microsoft reportedly discussed selling its Bing search engine to Apple in 2020, according to Bloomberg.
The publication cited “people with knowledge of the matter,” noting that the deal would have replaced Google as the default option on the iPhone and other devices. Microsoft executives allegedly met with Apple’s chief of services, Eddy Cue, to discuss a Bing acquisition, but the talks never reached an advanced stage.
Beyond discussing a Bing acquisition, Bloomberg reports that Microsoft and Apple held various discussions over the years about ways to make Bing the preferred option on Apple’s devices. However, the company stuck with Google.
The details bear increased significance amid the ongoing legal battle between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Google over the company’s alleged abuse of its search dominance. Google and Apple’s relationship, which sees Google pay billions to keep its search engine as the default on Apple’s hardware, is a central part of the DOJ case. Executives from both Microsoft and Apple have testified, with Apple’s Cue saying this week that Apple uses Google because it’s the best option available.
However, Bloomberg reports that the money Apple generated from the Google deal was a key reason behind Apple’s decision not to acquire Bing. The DOJ says that the agreement between Apple and Google expanded over the years, with Apple collecting $4 to $7 billion USD (roughly $5.4 to $9.5 billion CAD) annually from the arrangement by 2020. Other reports have put the number as high as $20 billion USD (about $27.1 billion CAD) in recent years.
Moreover, Apple had concerns about Bing’s ability to compete with Google in both quality and capabilities. Still, concerns about Bing haven’t stopped Apple from using it before — notably, Siri and Spotlight search on iPhone and iPad used Bing between 2013 and 2017, while Apple’s Safari browser kept Google as the default. Microsoft’s business development executive Jon Tinter revealed in court that in 2016, Microsoft considered a multi-billion dollar investment in its relationship with Apple in an attempt to outspend Google and make Bing the default on Apple devices. CEOs of both companies reportedly met to discuss a deal.
Interestingly, Cue said during his testimony that Apple doesn’t see a need to make its own search engine because Google is the best option. That goes against the numerous reports over the years about Apple’s efforts to make its own search engine. It also seems to go against Apple’s tactics in other areas, such as in mapping, where Apple developed its own mapping tool to compete with Google Maps.
If the Bing acquisition had gone through, it’s likely Apple would have killed the brand while integrating the underlying tech into a new feature. That’s Apple’s typical approach to acquisitions. If the acquisition had gone through, it’s possible we would have a vastly different search market today, though it’s we don’t know how significant of an impact it would have on Google’s business or search dominance.
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