How Google Wanted to Shut Down Apple’s Search Ambitions

Google has been formulating plans to counter Apple’s growing search capabilities, according to internal documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The tech giant aimed to undermine Apple’s Spotlight search tool by developing its own version for iPhones and encouraging users to switch to Google’s Chrome browser over Apple’s Safari. The move comes as Google faces an antitrust lawsuit from the U.S. Justice Department and multiple states, questioning its default agreements with companies like Apple, Samsung, and Mozilla.

In 2021, Google paid Apple approximately $18 billion to remain the default search engine on iPhones, say sources familiar with the matter. That same year, Apple’s Spotlight began displaying richer web results, similar to those found on Google.

Google’s plans also include leveraging new European laws designed to help smaller companies compete against Big Tech, aiming to crack open Apple’s tightly controlled software ecosystem.

The antitrust lawsuit against Google alleges that the company rigged the market in its favor through default agreements, funneling traffic to Google’s search engine. Google is set to present its defense in the ongoing trial, arguing that its search engine’s popularity is due to its quality and innovation, not its default settings.

Peter Schottenfels, a Google spokesman, stated, “Competition in the tech industry is fierce, and we compete against Apple on many fronts.” He added that while default settings matter, users have the option to change them. Apple declined to comment on the matter.

Last fall, Google executives discussed how to reduce reliance on Apple’s Safari browser and exploit new European laws to undermine Apple. The European Union’s Digital Markets Act is expected to force large tech companies to open their platforms to competitors by March and stop favoring their own services. Google aims to use this law to siphon users from Safari and Spotlight.

This has always been one of the strangest relationships in tech. Apple touts privacy on the iPhone and slams competitors such as Android, which is backed by Google. Apple knows users are giving up info when they are using Google search on the iPhone, yet will gladly accept money from the latter to allow it to be the default.

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