A new signed report The Information looks at Apple’s current efforts to develop “search capabilities that could directly compete with those of Google.” As part of this project, in 2019 Apple acquired an AI startup called Laserlike, which was founded by a group of Google engineers. But in the meantime, the founders have returned to Google.
Apple Search soon online?
The co-founder of Laserlike, Srinivasan Venkatachary, had taken on the role of senior manager for Apple’s research team, managing at least 200 employees. This team is responsible for developing functionality for things like Spotlight and Siri Suggestions, as well as responses from the voice assistant Siri itself.
While at Apple, Venkatachary reported to Apple’s vice president of machine learning and artificial intelligence, John Giannandrea, who is also a former Google executive. Venkatachary notably helped bolster the search team at Apple, focusing on hiring a number of Google Search employees.
Venkatachary has now returned to Google, along with other Laserlike co-founders:
Mr. Venkatachary is now vice president of engineering at Google, reporting to James Manyika, senior vice president of technology and society, whose portfolio includes a group responsible for tracking how technologies such as artificial intelligence affect social issues, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The other co-founders of Laserlike, Steven Baker and Anand Shukla, are also part of Mr. Venkatachary’s team, the person said. It has not been possible to learn what the former Apple employees are working on specifically.
However, as today’s report points out, Apple and Google are both competitors and partners in the search business. More specifically, Google pays Apple an estimated $18-20 billion a year to remain the default search engine on all Apple devices. However, this agreement is the subject of increasing scrutiny from the antitrust authorities.
It’s not yet known if Apple plans to launch a dedicated search engine, but today’s report says the company is still “at least four years away” from being able to do so:
Apple is still at least four years away from launching a potential replacement for Google Search, the person who was involved with the team has estimated. This would undoubtedly require a significant increase in the team’s budget. Apple might also be able to strike a similar deal with Microsoft’s Bing as it did with Google because Bing has a relatively small share of the search market.
In the meantime, Apple is said to be working to expand the technology developed by the former Venkachatary team to “power research for Apple Music and the App Store”. It could also use the technology to “generate data for Apple teams developing applications that use natural language processing, such as those that involve translation.” An entire program.
No doubt an Apple search engine, quick on confidentiality, would be a good way to keep its customers in the ecosystem, but also, and perhaps above all, to monetize a little more. Google derives its profits from online advertising, Apple sees a very interesting opportunity.
So, good or bad idea?
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An Apple Search engine on the web? Not before 2026!
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