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Apple Developing Search Engine As Google Comes Under Antitrust Scrutiny: Report

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Apple has ramped up the development of its own search engine technology as antitrust U.S. and European Union regulators scrutinize Google, according to a Financial Times report.

The Silicon Valley tech giant has subtly started the transition away from its reliance on the Google search engine, The Financial Times reported. Apple’s latest software update iOS 14, for example, directs users directly to links when they search for a term on their device’s home screen.

“Apple’s position is very unique because it has the iPhone and iOS. It controls the default browser,” Sridhar Ramaswamy, former head of advertising at Google, told the FT.

The increase in Apple’s search technology capabilities evidenced by iOS 14 signal the potential for a full attack on Google, several industry experts told the FT. While Apple is tight-lipped when it comes to internal projects, the company hired John Giannandrea in 2018, who had been Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence, according to The New York Times.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the time that Giannandrea shared the company’s commitment to a “thoughtful approach as we make computers even smarter and more personal,” according to The NYT.

“They [Apple] have a credible team that I think has the experience and the depth, if they wanted to, to build a more general search engine,” Bill Coughran, a partner at Silicon Valley investor Sequoia Capital and former Google engineering chief, told The FT.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against Google on Oct. 20 over the company’s alleged anti-competitive tactics, which bolster its search technology, according to The Wall Street Journal. Among the allegations, DOJ prosecutors said Google uses ad revenue to pay Apple billions of dollars to make Google the default search engine on Apple devices.

“This lawsuit strikes at the heart of Google’s grip over the internet for millions of American consumers, advertisers, small businesses and entrepreneurs beholden to an unlawful monopolist,” Attorney General William Barr said in a press release.

The DOJ accused Google of creating “a continuous and self-reinforcing cycle of monopolization,” according to the press release.

The lawsuit came weeks after European Union regulators reportedly placed Apple and Google on a “hit list” and the U.S. House of Representatives released a report demanding a restructuring of Big Tech due to antitrust and monopoly power concerns.

“Although these firms have delivered clear benefits to society, the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google has come at a price,” the House report said.

It continued: “These firms typically run the marketplace while also competing in it — a position that enables them to write one set of rules for others, while they play by another, or to engage in a form of their own private quasi regulation that is unaccountable to anyone but themselves.”

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