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Apple’s ‘silent war’ on Google could revolve around search

Former Apple engineers have said the company is waging a ‘silent war’ on Google geared towards ending the dependence on the Search giant to provide crucial services to device owners.

What started with Apple Maps a decade ago could continue with a privacy-focused search engine built directly into the iOS operating system, which could pose a major threat to Google’s ad business.

Apple has been rumoured to be building its own search engine for years now, but a Financial Times report puts the possibility back in the limelight. It’s especially pertinent given Google’s parent company Alphabet has just been sued by the US government over an alleged monopoly over online ads.

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Google currently pays Apple a pretty penny (believed to be between $8bn and $12bn a year) to be the default web search engine on the iPhone, with an estimated 1.2 billion iPhone users worldwide. Should Apple go it alone under the guise of user privacy, that could take a huge chunk out of Google’s ad revenue.

“If Apple could build something that was essentially as good as ‘Google classic’ — Google circa 2010 when it was a simple search engine less optimised for ads revenue — people might just prefer that,” Josh Koenig, chief strategy officer at website operations platform Pantheon told the FT.

Meanwhile, Cory Munchbach, chief executive of BlueConic, a customer data platform added: “Apple is very well positioned to decouple from Google more and more, largely under the guise of consumer privacy.”

Apple has already made multiple stands against ad-tracking in the last couple of years, with initiatives like the App Tracking Transparency. That has prevented the likes of Facebook and Snap from following users from app-to-app in order to serve personalised ads.

The strategy could be part of a three pronged war on Google, which the report says is aimed at depriving the company of key revenue streams. The first is Maps, the second may be Search and the third could be a new ad network. All would impact Google’s ability to make money from user’s choices online.

The report says a job ad posted in 2022 “was an indication Apple wants to build a novel ad network, one that would reshape how ads are delivered to iPhone users and keep third-party data brokers out of the loop.”

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