One of my favorite angles in the blooming Apple versus Google war is the rumor/theory that Apple could jettison Google as the default search engine on its iPhone.
That rumor, which started in earnest back in January when BusinessWeek cited sources saying Apple was mulling moving to Bing on iPhone, has new life in the wake of some great screenshots iLounge posted of the iPhone OS 4.0.
MacRumors zeroed in on the point that Apple replaced the "Google" branding from the search button in the lower right corner with "Search" in Apple's Safari mobile browser. Here is MacRumors' side-by-side:
Conspiracy theorists love to surmise that this means Apple is finally shedding Google.
So what doesn't sit right with this? Well, first of all, Google is the preferred search service in Apple's hot new iPad tablet.
iPad uses the "Search" button on the keyboard. The brand "Google" does appear in the search window itself in Safari.
So my guess is this is a design change Apple is making to summarily spite and distance itself from Google. Perhaps, as Henry Blodget suggested, Apple is really building its own search engine for the iPhone.
My gut tells me Apple, which got beaten to the altar by Google for AdMob (though that deal is far from certain thanks to the FTC's meddling), would love to rid itself of any ties to Google.
But Google is the world's preferred search engine, with 65 percent market share in the U.S. and as much as 85 percent share in other countries.
Making anything but Google the default search engine on iPhone or iPad would be stupid, and if Apple did substitute Bing (11.7 percent share in the U.S.) it would have to provide an easy button to let iPhone users switch to Google.
Apple knows this. Barring any default search switch, the company can certainly abstain from promoting Google on the device, which is likely why Apple has replaced "Google" with the generic "search" term.
Not a big deal, but another sign of the increasingly chilly relations between the two companies. If Google and Microsoft are battling for the desktop Web, Apple and Google are the leading powers in the mobile Web war. How exciting!