Apple would like to challenge Google with a new search engine, can it do otherwise?

A search engine signed Apple? This is not the first time that this rumor floats on the surface of the Web. This time, it comes from Robert Scoble – famous glasshole in his spare time, augmented reality evangelist, investment adviser, and, as such, someone introduced here and beyond in Silicon Valley.

Apple Search, to fight against Google Search?

In a series of tweets at the end of May, he listed various information he had gleaned from reliable people, without claiming that everything he said would prove to be true.

He indicated in particular that, according to his sources, the virtual reality headset from Apple would be presented in January 2023, for a launch in June of the same year. Tim Cook’s teams would then reproduce the same pattern chosen for the iPhone in 2007.
But, the most interesting information is in his last tweet. Like a one more thing released at the last moment, Robert Scoble announces:

“Oh, and a new search engine is also on the way. » Then he adds in continuity: “Will Siri finally get smart?” »

Make the tip of the iceberg smart

This last sentence is particularly interesting, because it is indeed one of the first issues. Even if he learned to search for information on the Web or in his musical database, in particular for HomePod, Siri is much less advanced than its main competitors. And this is even more true in French when the question of language is added.

But, ultimately, Siri is just the tip of the iceberg. It is the interface that serves to reach a sum of knowledge. However, this is where Google, in particular, is at the top. He works to enrich his knowledge graph since its announcement almost ten years ago. This knowledge base is at the heart of the enrichment of searches in Google’s engine, but also the basis of some of the most breathtaking demonstrations of conversational artificial intelligence that the Mountain View giant has presented in recent years.

Google repeats it at each I/O, its job (and therefore its main know-how) is to collect information, format it so that it can be consulted on demand, or even offered in a “predictive” way. .

Seeing Apple embark on the development of a new search engine is therefore certainly good news for users of the Siri assistant.


The end of a domination?

If it is estimated that Apple would consider making it a tool open to everyone, on the Web – and nothing is less certain -, this can also be seen as an encouraging sign of a potential end to the almost unquestioned domination ( at least in the West) from Google. An alternative to the search engine could have a better chance of winning, if it is supported by a giant that has the means – because Google Search is also and, perhaps above all, huge economic stakes. Even if we have seen that being a giant is not enough, Microsoft and Bing are a glaring illustration of this.

However, Microsoft does not have the deep integration know-how (sometimes outrageous and comparable to a lock) of Apple. Above all, it does not have the weight of an ecosystem carried by an ultra-present smartphone.

Given Apple’s past and current failings, this search engine should not be too closed. The failure to abandon Google Maps in iOS should not be repeated either. The launch of Maps with Apple’s cartography was the result of a certain haste – partly imposed by Google, which refused certain features to Apple, such as turn-by-turn navigation – and management errors, which we can hope not to see again.

The foundation for a new era of privacy protection

Moreover, Apple would have a very relevant card to play if it launched into search engines: that of the protection of privacy, which would involve an overhaul of the economic model of search engines in the continuity of its efforts against online tracking.

A niche that is already occupied, with more or less happiness, by Qwant, in particular. But it would take on a whole new dimension, driven by a giant like Apple. Not only does it have the means, but this vision is fully in line with its industrial strategy – design of products and services – and commercial.

Nevertheless, the task will not be easy, it is obvious. Google has been at it since 1996, so to speak, even if the project of young Sergey Brin and Larry Page was undoubtedly far from what Google Search is today. Without even talking about the habit of Internet users, it will be necessary to achieve a level of quality in the responses that is sufficient, from the outset, to seduce users and divert them from Google.

A need to act… quickly

Be that as it may, whether the tool remains in the shadows, and accessible only by Siri or Spotlight, or whether it is launched with fanfare to confront Google, another element will also force Apple to hurry. Since 2019, and things clearly accelerated last May, during the 2022 edition of the I/O, Google has made progress in its strategy ofambient computing.

Very schematically, this ambition can be summed up in one sentence: to provide the right information everywhere, all the time, regardless of the device used. It is in the light of this vision made up of technological ubiquity that we must hear Google’s recent efforts in the field of hardware – hitherto a strong point almost reserved for Apple.

Yes, Pixels have been around since 2015, but things got particularly serious with the introduction of the first in-house Tensor chip in 2021, designed for Google devices and especially for services that rely heavily on machine learning algorithms.

With this in mind, the early announcement of a connected watch and a tablet are only the signal that Google, king of software, is now very serious about the hardware part that it controlled and dominated well. less so far. The prototype/concept of connected glasses, intended for simultaneous translation, glimpsed at the very end of the Google I/O, is both proof that Google does not want to repeat the hardware errors of the past – the consequences have been drawn from the missed Google Glass – and that Sundar Pichai’s teams have a long-term vision of where they want to go.

Apple starts from the exact opposite. He masters the material, more and more controls each of these components. However, it lacks the advanced science of AI, the gigantic accumulated and structured knowledge base – even if searches in Spotlight on Mac and in Siri on iOS/iPadOS show that a promising “embryo” does exist.

The future… of the future?

Apple needs to take the steps that will make tomorrow’s Apple services and devices as “smart” as Google’s. The beginnings of these efforts are already visible in Apple’s OS, but there is still a lot to be done to be able to translate conversations on the fly, to indicate where to find a restaurant that serves a dish seen in a photo in a magazine or on the web, etc.

Especially since many of these service and technological bricks, useful in a Mac, very practical in an iPhone, will undoubtedly become essential when the time comes for the advent of mixed reality, which will merge, if the promise is kept, the real world and the digital world.

In this sense, and even if the search engine is in itself only one piece of a more complex puzzle, and whatever its final form, this “Apple Search” project is exciting. Only a few days left before knowing if it will come out of its laboratories for WWDC 2022!

Leave a Comment