The US Justice Department’s antitrust case against Google is already causing waves in big tech.
Last week the DOJ accused Google of anticompetitive conduct through its search business, claiming the tech giant had ‘monopolised’ the space.
The DOJ is particularly concerned about a deal between Google and Apple, which sees the search engine pay an estimated $US8-12 billion a year to be the default search engine on iOS devices.
The UK Competition and Markets Authority has also suggested the deal may stifle competition.
“Given the impact of preinstallations and defaults on mobile devices and Apple’s significant market share, it is our view that Apple’s existing arrangements with Google create a significant barrier to entry and expansion for rivals affecting competition between search engines on mobiles,” the regulator wrote in a report earlier this year.
Given the increased scrutiny around the deal, Apple is reportedly stepping up its search capabilities.
A Financial Times report points to a change seen in the recent iOS 14 update, where Apple now shows its own results through a search box on the iPhone home screen.
“Apple is stepping up efforts to develop its own search technology as US antitrust authorities threaten multibillion-dollar payments that Google makes to secure prime placement of its engine on the iPhone,” the FT report speculates.
“That web search capability marks an important advance in Apple’s in-house development and could form the foundation of a fuller attack on Google, according to several people in the industry.”
While creating an in-house search capability would serve as an alternative if the DOJ – or any other authority – moves to block future deals between the two companies, it would largely go against Apple’s strong commitment to user privacy.
In 2014, Tim Cook discussed Google’s business model.
“A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy,” he said.
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