In 2018, Apple reportedly considered purchasing Microsoft’s Bing search engine or making a “multimillion-dollar investment” in a joint venture. The revelation came from the unsealed transcript of testimony from Apple’s head of machine learning and former Google executive, John Giannandrea, as part of the Department of Justice’s antitrust case against Google. At that time, Apple was exploring alternatives to Google for Siri queries and other iPhone and Mac features. The deal with Microsoft did not materialize, and Giannandrea believed that Apple CEO Tim Cook communicated to Microsoft that it was not going forward. The discussions included scenarios like growing Siri organically, collaborating on building a “Knowledge Graph,” co-owning Bing, or acquiring Bing.
The unsealed testimony shed light on Apple’s internal deliberations about improving Siri and Spotlight, and the Department of Justice aimed to show that Apple might have invested more in its search technology if not for the lucrative deal with Google. Giannandrea highlighted that Apple competes for queries through Siri, Spotlight, and auto-complete “Suggestions” in the Safari browser but does not have a “general” search engine. The testimony also revealed skepticism about Bing’s potential improvement over Google, and an email from Giannandrea to Cook expressed reservations. While Microsoft suggested flexibility in revenue sharing, Apple did not proceed with the Bing deal, and the company’s search strategy remains a topic of interest.
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