Apple Tried to Poach Google Search Chief, Reveals Court Documents

Documents that have surfaced as part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s ongoing antitrust lawsuit against Google have revealed that Apple, which succeeded in hiring Google’s chief of search John Giannandrea, also went after his number two at some point — reports Bloomberg.

After Giannandrea was poached by Apple and named Senior Vice President of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence Strategy, his top search deputy, Ben Gomes, stepped up into his shoes as chief of search and AI at Google.

Obviously, Apple’s attempts at getting Gomes to jump ship were unsuccessful — the veteran Google exec who joined the company in 1999 stayed on as chief of search until 2020, at which point he was tasked with heading the company’s education efforts.

Gomes’ predecessor, who became one of Apple’s top executives, today also leads the iPhone maker’s autonomous vehicle unit in addition to spearheading its machine learning and AI efforts.

Documents detailing Apple’s efforts to hire Gomes and Giannandrea were furnished in response to a subpoena the DOJ sent to Apple earlier this week.

The subpoena asked for all documents, starting in Jan. 1, 2010, relating to attempts at recruiting employees from Google, Microsoft Corp.’s Bing, Yahoo! Inc. and DuckDuckGo “with expertise or experience in internet search services or search advertising, including: John Giannandrea and Ben Gomes.”

The documents don’t say exactly when Apple tried to hire Gomes.

Apple’s attempts to bring more search engine experts into the fray and improve its own search functionality across the iOS, iPadOS, and macOS Operating Systems despite the fact that it doesn’t have a search engine of its own have led to speculation that the Cupertino company wants to square up with Google in the search space.

However, not only would that be a capital-intensive task, but Apple would also have to bid farewell to the billions of dollars in annual royalty payments it receives from Google for making it the default search engine in its Safari web browser.

This ‘deal’ between Apple and Google has led to the Justice Department alleging that Apple and Google have been working as “one company” in the search space.