Apple founder Steve Jobs once dismissed Microsoft as a maker of "third-rate products." How times have changed in the Tim Cook era. Apple now wants less Google in its system and more Redmond-made wares. Case in point: the new iPhone iOS 8 mobile operating system ditches Google Search in favor of Bing for queries made through Spotlight.
Spotlight lets users search for content stored locally on an iPhone and, with iOS 8, also renders results from apps, such as Apple Maps, iTunes, the App Store, and from the Web through Bing.
In previous iOS versions, Web searches through Spotlight automatically prompted Apple's Safari browser to launch, which then directed users to Google.
Apple has long had plans to nip in the bud Google’s influence on its ecosystem. Cupertino ditched Google Maps on iOS 6 in 2012 with the introduction of its own Apple Maps service. In 2013, Apple made Bing the default search option on its personal assistant tool Siri. With Bing being the default search engine for Spotlight, not only in iOS 8 but also in Apple's Mac software, OS X Yosemite, Apple has taken another step toward weaning itself off of Google completely.
The irony is that, in doing so, Apple is cozying up to Microsoft--formerly its fiercest rival. “This is certainly a warning shot, if nothing else, that Apple is open to alternatives unless Google proves [it's] the right partner for Apple,” said Will Margiloff, CEO of search engine marketing firm IgnitionOne.
Google remains the default search option on Apple’s Safari browser due to a partnership that Apple and Google struck in 2009 and renewed in 2011. There is no indication as to when the deal would be up for renewal.
Apple may keep that deal intact. Morgan Stanley analyst Scott Devitt said in 2013 that the company could be earning up to $1 billion a year by having Google as its default search engine. Overall, companies earn more when aligned with Google than other search providers because Google has more advertisers and higher pay per clicks.
Still, Apple has options. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer wants its search engine, which is in fact powered by Bing, to be the default on Apple’s software. With iOS 8, Apple has also added the search engine DuckDuckGo as an option. The latter is very privacy oriented and does not track users’ activities on the Web, unlike Google.
Microsoft has already indicated its eagerness to have Bing featured on iOS applications. “Microsoft is being very aggressive in pursuing larger deals because they need to retain critical mass to keep existing advertisers interested and to attract new advertisers, particularly smaller local advertisers,” said Kevin Lee, CEO of the search engine marketing firm, Didit.