While Google’s search engine has been the default on Apple devices for years, recently unsealed court testimony reveals that Apple held talks with Microsoft and DuckDuckGo to use their search engines on all Apple devices and, in the case from Microsoft, it could even buy Bing. Washington Post and Bloomberg report. The potential of a deal with Microsoft also served as a useful bargaining chip for Apple in negotiating its lucrative search deal with Google.
The news that Apple was considering buying Bing emerged in a report Bloomberg last week, but newly revealed testimony from Apple Senior Vice President John Giannandrea sheds more light on the discussions. Apple met with Microsoft in 2018 and later in 2020 to discuss a possible Bing acquisition or joint venture. Bloomberg reports. The company even studied the quality of Bing’s search results compared to Google’s, but found that Bing overall performed worse, except for English desktop searches.
Apple has used Bing as the default search service for some of its products in the past (between 2013 and 2017, Microsoft’s search engine provided answers for searches conducted through Siri and Spotlight), but ultimately decided to stick with Google in a agreement that is estimated to be worth around 19 billion dollars to Apple annually.
Although Apple appeared to be considering a deal with Microsoft, an internal Apple email that surfaced as part of the trial suggests that the company was, at least partially, using Bing as a negotiating tactic to extract more money from Google. “We strengthen them (Microsoft), create incremental negotiating leverage to maintain Google’s acquisition rate, and increase our option to replace Google in the future,” Apple Vice President Adrian Perica wrote. Washington Post reports. For its part, Microsoft was aware that it was being used for leverage. “It’s no secret that Apple is making more money with Bing than Bing,” said Microsoft’s head of advertising and web services. Mikhail Parakhin testified during the court hearing.
Apple also had about 20 meetings and phone calls with DuckDuckGo to discuss making the search engine the default for Safari’s private browsing mode, according to a newly revealed testimony from DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg. DuckDuckGo markets itself as a more privacy-focused alternative to the major search engines. Although Weinberg says he “thought (Apple) would release it,” Apple’s Giannandrea says he wasn’t aware that the company had considered a change, and even questioned DuckDuckGo’s privacy claims. Bloomberg grades.
According to Giannandrea, DuckDuckGo’s reliance on Bing for search information risks sharing user information with Microsoft. “I would probably insist on doing a lot more due diligence on DuckDuckGo” if Apple were seriously considering switching, Giannandrea said.