Apple is finally doing search, or at least search for applications, somewhat completing a debate ignited nearly two years ago by analysts and pundits.
Last week, Apple acquired Chomp, whose application helps users of iOS and Android devices find an app they'd like.
It's an application search app, which is a big deal for an App Store that has more than 550,000 apps titles.
I've followed this story with great interest because I thought Apple's getting into search would be one heck of an "Empire Strikes Back" story after Google jumped into Apple's mobile operating system pool with Android.
Recall back in March 2010, when Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster noted that Apple would build a mobile-centric search engine to hide its App Store data from Google's search crawlers:
"We believe Apple could utilize data unavailable to Google, data generated by the company's App Store, to create a mobile-centric search engine, which would be a unique offering to Google's search engine."
The late Apple founder Steve Jobs shot down the suggestion two months later at the AllThingsDigital D8 conference, noting that "We have no plans to go into the search business. We don't care about it--other people do it well."
And yet a day later John Battelle predicted Apple would do some sort of application search. "Apple will do search," Battelle wrote. "It won't be search as we understand it on the Web, but it'll be search for AppWorld, and if done right, it will be extremely profitable."
The profitable prediction remains to be seen, but let's extend what Battelle said a little bit. What Chomp does may make finding apps more efficient. Used in Apple's App Store, it could reduce the barrier of users finding and purchasing apps.
Let's apply Google's theory that the faster people can conduct searches, the more they will move on to the next search query to the Chomp technology: if people can find apps faster in the App Store, will they be more inclined to click to purchase?
Maybe. I haven't done a lot of searching in the App Store. Anyone know if it's currently better or worse than the Android Market?
I've searched a lot in the Android Market and always found the title I thought should be there. But as far as app discovery? I have to think Chomp will give Apple a leg up.
That would be ironic, given Google's massive search market share--and unfortunate, given the Market's lag behind its rival in so many other areas.