Apple’s Google Search Alternative is at Least Four Years Away: Report

Apple is “at least four years away” from launching its own search engine to rival Google’s — reports The Information.

The iPhone maker has been quietly labouring to build an alternative to Google’s flagship product for years now. Apple bolstered its efforts when it acquired Laserlike, an AI news startup founded by three Google engineers, back in 2018. That same year, Apple also poached Google’s head of Search and AI, John Giannandrea, and made him Vice President of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Unfortunately, Apple’s plans to create an in-house search engine recently suffered a major setback as Laserlike’s founders exited the company to return to Google.

Laserlike cofounder Srinivasan Venkatachary had settled into the senior director role for Apple’s search team, helping manage at least 200 employees in the department and reporting directly to Giannandrea.

Venkatachary and fellow Laserlike cofounders Steven Baker and Anand Shukla contribute to a growing list of recent high-profile exits from Apple, which also includes design chief Evans Hankey and key retail executives Anna Matthiasson and Mary Demby.

According to one person working with Apple’s search team, the company’s planned Google Search replacement is now at least four years away. However, the team is focused on more than just developing a search engine.

Apple’s search team is also tasked with developing features for Spotlight and working to improve Siri and Siri Suggestions. One source told The Information that one of the team’s top priorities in the short term is improving Spotlight and making it capable of handling “100 times more queries” than it does today.

Even though it may be a while before it actually materializes, an Apple search engine would allow the tech giant to take on Google in yet another arena.

Google currently pays Apple billions of dollars every year to be the default search engine on all Apple devices, which drives major ad revenue for the search and advertising goliath. One person who has been involved with Apple’s search team said a solid Google Search competitor could give the company even more leverage in its negotiations with Google over the multibillion-dollar deal.

In the meantime, Apple is considering using the technology it has developed to power search for other products, such as Apple Music and the App Store. Apple is already using it to generate data for teams developing apps like Translate that use natural language processing, sift through tweets for newsworthy events that should show up in results, and curate Apple News articles.