Did Apple's 'Spotlight' Update Just Sideline Google Search Ads?

With Its New Product Updates, Apple Introduces More Insular Search Options

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Apple exec Craig Federighi demoing search tool on Monday
Apple exec Craig Federighi demoing search tool on Monday

The next wave of iPhones and Macs are growing closer to Microsoft's Bing search engine and sidelining Google in the process.

While Apple did not introduce any new hardware products at the Worldwide Developers Conference today, the Cupertino company unmasked a slew of software tools that make it easier for users to push aside Google's search for Bing or even indie search engine DuckDuckGo.

In addition, Spotlight, Apple's local search function, will deliver web results and stripping out search ads in the process.

The two moves will give Bing, a distant No. 2 in search, a leg up. Apple made Bing default search engine for its voice assistant Siri last year.

"Last year Bing became the default web search for Siri, and will now also be the default web search provider in the redesigned Spotlight search feature for the next generation of iOS and OS X," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "We're excited about extending the Bing platform to help iOS and Mac customers find what they need to get things done."

Apple said the new operating system for mobile, iOS 8, will be available in the fall.

Apple also announced that Siri would be integrated with HomeKit, a new smart-home application. Count that move as another potshot at Google, which is moving into the connected home industry after its $3.2 billion purchase of Nest.

Google will remain the default search engine for Apple's desktop and mobile web browser Safari. However, Safari now pops up some search results as a dropdown from its navigation bar so that people can click directly to a result's page without first visiting Google's results page.

Google took in 70.8% of the $19.92 billion U.S. advertisers spent on search advertising last year, according to eMarketer estimates. But its search business has been stressed by the transition from primarily desktop PCs to mobile devices.

Apple's Bing-powered search tool might also be a setback for Yahoo, which is reportedly trying to end its search deal with Microsoft in order to release its own search product and become Apple's default search engine. Yahoo reported $445 million in revenue from its search business in the first quarter, equal to 39% of the company's overall revenue for the period. However the company credited 36% of its total Q1 revenue to its search alliance with Microsoft, which powers Yahoo's nonpaid search results.

Apple's search tool shows only a few results per query, meaning a lot less real estate for results. That means Apple would have to prove that its small number of results are accurate enough to fulfill someone's query. Good-enough search has never been enough to unseat or take share from Google.

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