The business model is undoubtedly ingenious: Billions of users search for something online, Google finds it and benefits from both ad revenue and the data that is collected in the process. How lucrative this is can also be measured by the fact that the company has so far paid an estimated eight to twelve billion dollars to Apple alone so that the iPhone manufacturer installs Google search as standard on its cell phones. The only question is how much longer. Because Apple is now also working on its own search engine – and it seems that this project is making progress.

Mobile phones with version 14 of Apple’s iOS operating system already display their own search results, albeit to a very limited extent: They only appear when the user swipes the start screen to the right and uses the search window that is then displayed. When searching on websites, the Google logo and the associated search results appear as usual.

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So we can’t really speak of a Google rival from Cupertino. And yet Apple could have a lot more in mind with its search engine plans than what users have seen so far. The Financial Times (FT) reports, citing search engine experts, that the activities of a so-called crawler from Apple have increased significantly on the web. A crawler is software that automatically searches the web and thus creates a search index. The FT quotes a former high-ranking Google manager who trusts Apple to build its own search engine.

The question remains whether this makes sense under antitrust law. The temptation to prefer your own products would be great – and also the risk that the authorities would take a very close look at it. However, the incentive for Apple to rely on independence when searching the web has recently become stronger. And that, too, ultimately has to do with the decision of an authority. The US Department of Justice is investigating Google because of the possible abuse of its monopoly position. And special attention is paid to the billions in Apple for the pre-installation of the search engine. This could also be a problem for the iPhone manufacturer.

A problem that Apple just doesn’t need. After all, you are already in a similar dispute with the game manufacturer Epic Games. This is about the control that Apple exercises with its App Store over the business with mobile phone programs. Epic is taking legal action against Apple because, according to the gaming company, the company wants to earn too much from the apps.

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Even if Apple has so far had little to do with search engines: It would not be the first time that the iPhone company is pushing into technology that does not seem to be part of its core business. It is mostly about not being dependent on others. For example, Apple has taken over the department from Intel that develops 5G chips – a team that is based in Germany and previously belonged to Infineon.

The own map service was initially a flop

Years ago, the Californians began to invest in developing their own main chips – with considerable success. Apple’s A14, which powers the new iPhone 12, calculates a lot faster than the competition from Qualcomm, for example. A laptop based on this chip could also be introduced soon.

However, it doesn’t always work that well. When Apple presented its own map service in 2012, it was so flawed that scorn and ridicule spilled over the company. Because of the huge flop, Scott Forstall, a long-time companion of company founder Steve Jobs, had to leave the company. The service is now working well.

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Apple, the most valuable company in the world, finds it comparatively easy to woo high-profile experts from the competition for its projects. John Giannandrea, who was previously responsible for Google’s search engine for eight years, was won over as head of the search project. Officially, his job description was to advance Apple in artificial intelligence in conjunction with the voice-controlled assistant Siri.

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