Microsoft and Apple executives met in 2020 to discuss a possible sale of Bing, according to a new report from Bloomberg. But the talks failed to advance beyond the exploratory phase, indicating that Apple’s top brass (including Eddy Cue, who participated in the meetings) never seriously pursued the idea.
Testimony in the current FTC antitrust lawsuit against Google has made clear that Apple has I never thought much to replace the leading search engine as the default on iPhones. Rather, Microsoft believes that Apple has only raised the possibility of extracting more money from Google to retain its place. “It’s no secret that Apple is making more money from Bing than Bing,” Microsoft’s Mikhail Parakhin said in U.S. District Court on Wednesday.
Bloomberg The latest report confirms that the lucrative deal between Apple and Google was a key reason for keeping things as they were. But Apple reportedly “had concerns about Bing’s ability to compete with Google on quality and capabilities.” This is consistent with Cue’s testimony: he said that “there was no valid alternative to Google at the time” of the deal’s origin and that one like it has yet to emerge in the many years since.
Apple is believed to receive more than $20 billion a year as part of the deal that secures Google’s position as the default search engine on iOS and iPadOS. Last week, the CEO of DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused search product, said that “it takes too many steps” to change the iPhone’s default settings. It’s actually quite trivial and requires only a few taps in the settings menu, but this goes to show how rarely most consumers deviate from the default.
None of this is to say that Bing hasn’t had its opportunities: as Bloomberg Mark Gurman notes that Microsoft’s engine was the default for Siri and Spotlight searches for several years, starting with iOS 7. Some saw this as a prelude to a bigger change, but Apple never went all the way: Safari always maintained the status quo and the Google search results that customers expected. Around 2016 there were meetings between CEOs Tim Cook and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella about a possible new deal that would have led to monumental change, but they were never successful.
Apple and Google recently extended their deal in 2021, so Microsoft’s speech from the previous year was likely an attempt to put the brakes on those renewal plans. Too much for that.