Apple Search Engine Lightning Bolt to Strike Google?
I recently received a lightning bolt e-mail response to my eWEEK story from April 4, in which I explored the idea that Google could create some search application specifically to shield its App Store applications for the iPhone and iPad from Google's search index.
One anonymous reader wrote July 24:
"I work at apple, all I can say is YOU HAVE NO IDEA!!!! IT WILL BE AWESOME!!!"
Emphasis is the writer's own. This could just be some prank pulled by someone who wants to fan the flames of competition between Google and Apple, whose jousts for the mobile Web have become bucket-of-popcorn-worthy events.
Or it could be someone in the know, who, upon pain of death, can't reveal his or her identity because of the iron curtain of Apple secrecy.
Here is what we know officially: Apple CEO Steve Jobs said his company wasn't dumping Google for Bing or building its own search engine.
Jobs said at the at AllThingsDigital's D8 conference June 1:
"We have no plans to go into the search business. We don't care about it--other people do it well."
Asked about whether he would remove Google from the iPhone or iPad, Jobs said no. This turned out to be true with iPhone 4, which launched with Google as the default, though Bing and Yahoo were certainly offered as options.
One June 2, search expert John Battelle challenged Jobs' statement, noting that Apple would do search, just not the search as we know it.
He advanced Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster's argument that Apple would build some mobile app search to horde all of its app data.
"Apple will do search," Battelle said. "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."
I agreed with Battelle and Munster then and I agree with them now.
But while financial analysts who cover Google might wring their hands in despair over the prospect of Apple creating a search engine castle to keep Google away from its application data, I'm not certain it will be so drastic.
First, Apple has language in its iPhone developer terms that precluded third-party ad networks from effectively delivering ads in iPhone and iPad apps.
But Apple, by all accounts, is not enforcing these rules, demonstrating that it is not so unreasonable as Google's AdMob team had made out. Or perhaps it is just trying to show the Federal Trade Commission it is being pro- instead of anti-competitive.
Second, if Apple did put a wall up around Google to shield it from iPhone data, how bad would it really be for Google and AdMob?
Sure, the iPhone is the hottest phone in the land and iPhone 4 sold like gangbusters in its short time on Earth, but Google is seeing 160,000 Android smartphones ship a day.
People are begging for the Motorola Droid X, the latest hot high-end Android smartphone.
If Apple does produce a search engine that excludes Google, I'd love to watch that battle develop. Google can meet the challenge by the gross saturation of Android handsets in the market as long as it continues to effectively deliver Google Mobile Ads.
Google is adding carrier billing options to let people charge apps to their wireless provider bills.
Don't discount Google, Android and AdMob so hastily in the mobile ad war versus Apple, even if it puts up a wall around its App Store that only iPhone and iPad users may search.
There's plenty of ad fish in the sea to catch. Moreover, such a move, if it did prohibit access to Google and AdMob, would only further polarize the mobile Web more.
Google vs. Apple would become more like the Apple vs. Microsoft of yesteryear. If it hasn't become that already.