The source of the rumor is a tweet from blogger Robert Scoble, which features at the end of a thread describing the announcements he expects from Apple over the next year.
In an exchange with TechRadar Pro, Scoble explained the information is based partly on conversations with sources and partly on deduction. "This is the most expensive product launch of all time [sic]," he added.
Scoble told us the search engine will not be announced at WWDC next week, but rather in January. TechRadar Pro has asked Apple for comment.
The dearth of competition in the search market and historic rivalry between Google and Apple has long had people wondering whether the Cupertino giant might eventually dip its toes in the water.
Although the worth of Google Search is difficult to ascertain due to the way Alphabet earnings are reported, we know that search accounts for the largest chunk of its ad revenue, which totalled $210 billion for 2021.
If Scoble's information proves to be correct, Apple has decided it fancies a piece of the action. But why now?
One possible explanation is that the firm believes the iOS and Safari install base has reached a critical mass, such that it can prop up a genuine challenge to Google's throne.
Apple has profited for years from a deal (potentially worth upwards of $20 billion/annum) that guarantees Google’s position as the default Safari search engine. According to filings from a recent class action lawsuit, the terms of this arrangement 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, the billion-strong Safari user base would provide a solid foundation on which to build. And as the spectre of new antitrust legislation looms, it’s possible the company will be shoved in this direction regardless.
However, it would be a mistake to assume that wide reach is a guarantee of success. Microsoft, for example, has failed to make material inroads in browsers and search, despite presiding over the world’s largest operating system.
In order for Apple to call off its agreement with Google voluntarily, the company would have to be sufficiently sure that gains in advertising revenue would compensate for the billions of dollars lost.
It’s also possible that the rumored service won’t look anything like a traditional search engine. In his tweet, Scoble hinted that Siri may be the primary beneficiary, which could indicate the new product is built to augment the (Google-powered) responses served up by the digital assistant, not to field general queries like a regular search engine.
We'll have to wait and see.
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Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.