"Search quality" of Bing kept Apple from buying the search engine from Microsoft in 2018

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"Search quality" of Bing kept Apple from buying the search engine from Microsoft in 2018
Last September, we told you about a Bloomberg report that said Microsoft had attempted to sell Bing to Apple in 2020. The report said that talks reached an exploratory stage and never got more advanced than that because Apple wanted to keep the cash it receives each year from Google to make the latter's search engine the default option on the iPhone. According to CNBC, when a court document related to Google's antitrust battle with the DOJ was unsealed on Friday, it included a similar claim.

Considering that court testimony last October revealed that Google had spent $26.3 billion to be the default search engine on smartphones and browsers, a deal to sell Bing to Apple was certainly something that Google would be concerned about. The unsealed document indicated that Microsoft pitched to Apple the idea of making Bing the Safari browser's default search engine in 2009, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2020. Each time Apple declined citing quality issues with Bing.

As we said, Google obviously had a keen interest in watching the talks between Apple and Microsoft. In the court filing, Google wrote, "In each instance, Apple took a hard look at the relative quality of Bing versus Google and concluded that Google was the superior default choice for its Safari users. That is competition." Per StatCounter, Bing has a relatively paltry 3.4% market share in search compared to Google's 91.5% slice of the global search engine pie.


The court filing captures an assessment of Bing from Apple's SVP of services, Eddy Cue. The latter said, "Microsoft search quality, their investment in search, everything was not significant at all. And so everything was lower. So the search quality itself wasn’t as good. They weren’t investing at any level comparable to Google or to what Microsoft could invest in. And their advertising organization and how they monetize was not very good either."

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Apple CEO Tim Cook also weighed in, giving his opinion of Bing to other Apple executives in an email. But for now, we don't know what Cook thought about Bing because his comments were redacted in the filing. Considering that Apple never did buy Bing or make it the default search engine for Safari, Cook's opinion of Bing might have been close to Eddy Cue's comments.

On the stand, Cue testified that "if Apple did not receive the massive payments it sought from Google, Apple would have developed its own search engine." Some analysts believe that Apple will eventually launch its own search engine.

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