In the ongoing Google antitrust trial, now in its third week, we are witnessing some intriguing developments that could shape the future of Google Search. This trial is anything but dull, with fresh information surfacing daily. While Alphabet (the parent company of Google) defends Google against accusations of stifling search innovation, Microsoft has entered the fray with an interesting perspective involving Bing and Apple.
Mikhail Parakhin, the person in charge of ads and web services at Microsoft, took the stand this week and made a surprising revelation. According to a report by Bloomberg, Parakhin argued that Apple actually benefits more from Bing’s existence than Bing itself does. He also claimed that when it came to the search-engine wars with Google, Bing was merely a bargaining chip for Apple.
For years, Microsoft has been pushing to make Bing the default search engine for iPhones. However, as Parakhin revealed during the US government’s antitrust trial against Google in Washington, Apple never seriously considered switching to Bing. Parakhin boldly stated, “Apple is making more money on Bing existing than Bing does.” He further explained, “We are always trying to convince Apple to use our search engine.”
Microsoft did have discussions with Apple as recently as 2021 about the possibility of Bing becoming the default search engine. However, it appears that no substantial progress was made during those talks. Parakhin emphasized the significance of such a move for Microsoft by describing it as “game-changing.” He also acknowledged that Bing’s performance on mobile is hindered by the lack of traffic.
In response to Google’s legal team, Parakhin argued that it was not economically viable for Microsoft to invest more in mobile search technology without a firmer guarantee of distribution. He stated, “Unless Microsoft gets a more significant, or firmer guarantee of distribution, it makes it uneconomical to invest.”
Since 2003, Apple has been using Google as the default search engine in its Safari browser, with a revenue-sharing agreement based on advertising generated through searches on Apple devices. The US Justice Department believes that contracts like these have allowed Google to unlawfully maintain its monopoly in the online search market. However, Google refutes these allegations, asserting that users choose its search engine because it is the best.
The exact amount that Apple earns from its Google deal remains confidential, but the Justice Department estimates it to be between $4 billion and $7 billion annually. Interestingly, Apple recently came under scrutiny when an executive revealed a secret second search engine setting for Safari while testifying under oath.
With the introduction of iOS 17, Apple introduced a feature that allows users to choose different search engines on their iPhones. This feature applies to regular browsing using Safari and private browsing using Safari. Currently, Google still serves as the default choice for both settings, but users have the option to change it if they desire.