Newly unsealed court testimonies have revealed that Apple considered replacing Google’s search engine with Microsoft’s Bing or privacy-focused DuckDuckGo across its devices.
The information came to light during the ongoing antitrust trial against Google initiated by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The DOJ is accusing Google of abusing its search market dominance. Part of the case focuses on the revenue-sharing deal between Google and Apple, which sees Google paying Apple billions yearly to remain the default search engine across Apple’s devices.
The testimonies were unsealed by Judge Amit Mehta, who ruled that they go to the heart of the case and should be public.
A Bing Acquisition: Apple’s Consideration
Apple’s Senior Vice President, John Giannandrea, testified that the company discussed with Microsoft in 2018 and again in 2020 about potentially acquiring Bing or forming a joint venture.
These discussions were part of an internal evaluation process where Apple examined the quality of Bing’s search results compared to Google’s. Although Bing performed worse overall, it tied with Google for desktop English searches.
Notably, Apple has previously used Bing as the default search service for some of its products, including Siri and Spotlight searches, from 2013 to 2017.
However, Apple ultimately decided to continue its deal with Google, estimated to bring in around $19 billion annually.
Internal Apple emails, revealed during the trial, suggested that the company was leveraging Bing as a negotiation tactic to extract more money from Google. During his testimony, Mikhail Parakhin, Microsoft’s chief of advertising and web services, confirmed this.
DuckDuckGo: The Privacy-Focused Alternative
In addition to Bing, Apple held approximately 20 meetings and phone calls with DuckDuckGo to discuss the possibility of making the privacy-focused search engine the default for Safari’s private browsing mode. DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg confirmed these discussions during his testimony.
Despite these talks and DuckDuckGo’s successful integration of some of its privacy technologies into Safari, Giannandrea denied knowledge of any serious consideration to replace Google with DuckDuckGo. He expressed concerns over DuckDuckGo’s reliance on Bing for search information, suggesting this could compromise user privacy.
Unveiling The Secrets Of Tech Giants
The unsealing of these testimonies offers a rare glimpse into the strategic maneuvering in an industry primarily dominated by Google.
The trial has further shed light on why few tech giants have seriously tried to compete with Google in the search sector.
The ongoing antitrust case against Google is the DOJ’s first against a major tech company in over two decades.
The release of these testimonies, after widespread criticism of the trial’s secrecy, marks a significant turning point in the trial’s transparency.
Sources: Bloomberg, The Washington Post
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