Jun 042014

With a search engine, Apple could retain the walled-garden approach and avoid working with Microsoft or Google.

Watching Apple roll out its new software offerings this week, especially its updated Spotlight search with the Bing search engine supposedly running the back end, makes me wonder how long Apple will use a Microsoft search product before it decides to go it alone.

Apple has done its best to keep all its offerings within an Apple sandbox. This way it can promote Apple as special and unique. It’s done a yeoman’s job of divorcing itself from using Google as it has become a serious rival for phones and tablets. Microsoft has always been a rival.

This means the company has to develop Apple Search, iSearch, eSearch, or something.

Apple is the only company on the planet that could possibly roll out a massive search system rivaling Google and Bing because it has $40 billion in cash reserves that it must use for something other than buying headphone companies or some other fad.

People know how to do search engines and they make money if done right, lots of money.

The Google engine is tired and problematic. Bing is functional but not different enough.

I see no reason why Apple cannot put a team together to top the Google engine or at least match it.

Many people actually resort to using DuckDuckGo for search since it promises not to track you and has revived the pagerank algorithms supposedly de-emphasized by Google because they are subject to manipulation. Anyone who uses Google for serious information search has long since noted that the results are clogged with spam, ads, and product sites in ways never witnessed in the past.

There has to be a new and better way of looking at search.

Search is integral to Apple’s software and user experience. It cannot leave this experience in the control of any would-be competitor, especially Microsoft. It has to do something about this, the same way it decided to do its own Web browser, Safari.

Apple saw the writing on the wall with the browser. At some point, a lot of software would run from the cloud and it was important to control the functionality of the browser so the information used and collected would kind of “stay in the family.”

Taking a cue from DuckDuckGo, Apple should be able to easily achieve that level of success. Apple has fans unlike any other company. The stalwarts would flock to an Apple search (unless it was horrible, which seems unlikely). At this point, with Google coasting, an Apple Search could actually top Google right out of the chute.

Also, Apple should have no trouble poaching Google and Microsoft employees to put together a dev team. Heck, the company can buy DuckDuckGo, too. Apple’s already made DuckDuckGo search an option in Safari on iOS 8 and OS X.

Apple also needs new sources of revenue. A search engine can provide that.

And of course, Apple doing a search engine would be the ultimate screw-Google moment after Google plundered Apple’s smartphone business.

I assume that Apple has already thought of this and is exploring development now. With a $40 billion bankroll it could probably do parallel projects with little effort.

I’d love to see new ideas for search. For a while, a number of alternative engines cropped up and were gobbled up by Google or Yahoo never to see daylight after that. A new search from Apple would not sell out to Google and Yahoo, as many have done in the past. The ease in which various now-dead search engines came and went (a Norwegian product called FAST was my favorite) indicated that it was not impossible to develop a search engine from scratch. None of these companies had Apple’s billions, either.

This has to be done and done soon for Apple to keep to the philosophy that it is a tightly controlled closed system with some third-party entrants (in the form of specialty apps). It’s not an open box, as epitomized by Windows and Linux.

If this week’s WWDC teaches us anything, it is that the company is more into the private sandbox than ever before. Analyze the new offerings and direction of the company and it’s apparent: Apple is closing ranks fast. Now all that it needs is a search engine.

It’s coming.

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