Google quietly formulated a plan to restrain Apple’s ambitions in the field of search. This involved creating an iPhone-compatible counterpart to Apple’s Spotlight and promoting the use of Google’s Chrome web browser among iPhone users. The New York Times obtained internal Google documents that detailed these efforts. Additionally, Google explored ways to utilize a recent European law aimed at aiding small businesses in their competition against major tech companies to challenge Apple’s control over the iPhone.
The concerns surrounding the situation escalated in 2021 when it was revealed that Google had reportedly paid Apple a substantial sum of around $18 billion to secure its search engine as the default choice on iPhones. This disclosure comes to BNN News today from two individuals with insider knowledge of the partnership, though they are not authorized to discuss it publicly. Intriguingly, in the same year, Apple’s iPhone search feature, Spotlight, started providing users with more comprehensive web results akin to those offered by Google.
Google’s counter-Apple initiative highlights the paramount importance Google’s executives attribute to retaining their leadership position in the search sector. It also offers valuable insights into the nuanced relationship between Google and Apple, who, despite being competitors in the realm of consumer tech and software, have been essential partners in Google’s mobile advertising business for more than ten years.
Google is about to launch a three-week defense presentation in the lengthy trial, starting this Thursday. So far, Google has played down the role of its default agreements with phone manufacturers and browser companies in shaping its success. The company maintains that its search engine’s popularity is a consequence of its high quality and innovative features, and users have the option to easily select a different default setting in their device configurations.
The nature of this relationship has faced close examination in the significant antitrust lawsuit filed against Google by the Justice Department and numerous states. Legal representatives for the government contend that Google manipulated the market in its favor through default agreements it inked with firms such as Apple, Samsung, and Mozilla. These agreements direct user traffic to Google’s search engine when individuals search for information using the top bar of a web browser.
Nevertheless, the documents reviewed by BNN News today make it clear that Google grasped the importance of defaults in guiding users toward a particular product, particularly when it aimed to influence Apple’s decision to keep Safari as the default web browser on the iPhone. Peter Schottenfels, a Google spokesperson, stated, “Competition in the tech industry is highly competitive, and we compete with Apple across various domains. The ways to search for information have proliferated, which is why our engineers implement thousands of improvements to Search each year to ensure the delivery of the most beneficial results.”
Emphasizing the significance of default settings, he pointed out that Google actively competes for them, although users can change their defaults. Google considered various alternatives, including the extent of data access on the iPhone, leaving the executives’ ultimate decisions undisclosed.