Apple Considered Buying Bing from Microsoft in 2018

Apple considered buying the Bing search engine or making a “multibillion dollar investment” in a joint venture with Microsoft in 2018, according to a transcript of testimony from Apple’s head of machine learning and former Google exec John Giannandrea that was recently unsealed.

The proposed partnership was aimed at improving Siri’s search capabilities and competing with Google. Microsoft had also suggested that it might be willing to be “very flexible” with sharing revenue from its ads in the event of a partnership.

In 2020, Microsoft executives pitched Apple’s Cue on a deal to sell Bing search engine to Apple, which would have replaced Google as the default option on the iPhone maker’s devices, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The talks were exploratory and never reached an advanced stage.

Bing’s market share is much less attractive than Google’s 90 percent slice of the pie. Apple was already collecting an estimated $19 billion per year from Alphabet without the extra hassle of maintaining a search engine. Buying Bing didn’t make good business sense, so the talks never moved out of the “exploratory stages.”

Despite Bing’s measly standing, testimony from Microsoft’s chief of advertising and web services, Mikhail Parakhin, revealed that Apple was able to use Bing to leverage more money from Alphabet under the threat that it would make it the default on more than 2 billion devices, which includes 1.65 billion iPhones.

Apple’s consideration of buying Bing or making a joint venture with Microsoft in 2018 and Microsoft’s attempt to sell Bing to Apple in 2020 demonstrate the highly competitive search engine market. While the partnerships did not come to fruition, they highlight the potential for collaboration between tech giants in the industry.