As Apple prepares for its annual report WWDC storefront, a rumor that the company is about to launch its own search engine is doing the rounds.
The source of the rumor is a Tweeter (opens in a new tab) from blogger Robert Scoble, who appears at the end of a thread describing the announcements he expects from Apple over the next year.
In an exchange with Tech Radar Pro, Scoble explained that the information is based partly on conversations with sources and partly on inferences. “It’s the most expensive product launch ever [sic],” he added.
Scoble told us that the search engine won’t be announced at WWDC next week, but rather in January. Tech Radar Pro asked Apple for comment.
The lack of competition in the search market and the historic rivalry between Google and Apple have long had people wondering if the Cupertino giant could possibly dip its toes in water.
Although the value of Google search is difficult to determine due to the way in which Alphabet Earnings are reported, we know that search accounts for the largest portion of its ad revenue, which totaled $210 billion for 2021.
If Scoble’s information turns out to be correct, Apple has decided it wants to get in on the action. But why now?
One possible explanation is that the firm believes the iOS and Safari install base has reached critical mass, so it can sustain a real challenge to Google’s throne.
Apple has benefited for years from a deal (potentially worth more than $20 billion a year) which guarantees Google’s position as Safari’s default search engine. According recent class action filingsthe terms of this agreement also prohibit Apple from launching a standalone search product.
But hypothetically, if Apple were to tear up the deal with Google and bring an alternative to market, Safari’s billion-strong user base would provide a solid foundation to build on. And as the specter of new antitrust legislation (opens in a new tab) looms, the company may be pushed in that direction regardless.
However, it would be a mistake to assume that a wide reach is a guarantee of success. Microsoft, for example, has failed to make hardware breakthroughs in browsers and search, despite presiding over the world’s largest operating system.
For Apple to voluntarily cancel its deal with Google, the company would need to be confident enough that ad revenue gains would make up for the billions of dollars lost.
It is also possible that the supposed service bears no resemblance to a traditional search engine. In his tweet, Scoble hinted that Siri could be the main beneficiary, which could indicate that the new product is designed to augment the (Google-powered) responses provided by the digital assistant, and not to answer general queries like an ordinary search engine.
We will have to wait and see.