It's looking increasingly likely Google Search is about to lose a prominent place on Apple devices. If correct, it couldn't come at a better time when privacy and security remain top issues around the world.
According to Coywolf and Jon Henshaw, Apple has already hired search engineers to bring artificial intelligence and machine learning to more of its services and apps. At the same time, the company's Applebot web crawler has been working feverishly in recent months on crawling websites. Both points suggest an Apple-designed web-based search engine could soon be launching for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.
Currently, Google pays Apple approximately $7-$8 billion per year to be the default search engine on multiple platforms. That sounds like a lot of cash until you consider Apple's market capitalization has recently passed $2 trillion.
With privacy continuously in the news, now might be the perfect time for Apple to make a change. Back in June, Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi said Apple should purchase the DuckDuckGo search engine and end its long-standing agreement with Google. For the most immediate transition, moving from Google to DuckDuckGo makes the most sense.
However, this probably isn't the direction the company is taking. When the world's largest company enters new product markets, it typically starts from scratch.
Instead, I expect Apple will ditch Google Search as the default as soon as it can contractually, and replace it with a native solution. Under this scenario, Apple Search would become the default search engine in Safari on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. To keep regulators happy, however, Apple will likely keep Google, DuckDuckGo, and Bing as alternative solutions that are easy to change by users.
An internal change tells a bigger the story
For internal searches in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, users can type a query in Spotlight Search and tap on a result that will open Safari and display search results from Google. In iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, however, Spotlight Search returns search results that bypass Google, allowing you to visit those sites directly.
If this is already on the menu for internal searches on iPhone and iPad this fall, I see no reason it won't also get extended to web searches. Whether Apple Search happens when iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 launch to the public (probably as early as next month) isn't known. Most likely, Apple will hold off on making a change until a future iOS/iPadOS 14.x update arrives.
What say you? Let us know in the comments below what you think about a possible Apple Search product.