As the Department of Justice’s antitrust case against Google continues, more details about the company’s relationship with Apple have emerged. This time, testimony from Google CEO Sundar Pichai has revealed that Google once pitched Tim Cook on building a version of the Google Search app that would come pre-loaded on every iPhone.
As reported by The Verge, Pichai’s testimony on Monday focused heavily on the multi-billion dollar deal between Apple and Google. As part of this deal, Apple makes Google the default search engine on all of its platforms and therefore gets a slice of advertising revenue from every search.
In 2018, Apple noticed something that it didn’t like: Google’s overall revenue was growing at a much faster rate than the revenue it was getting from Google through the search arrangement. According to Pichai’s testimony today, Apple voiced those concerns to Google, and Google responded with a breakdown of different ideas and suggestions.
These details were revealed during Pichai’s testimony based on emails and meeting notes from Don Harrison, Google’s partnerships executive. Harrison emphasized in his notes that Google “is not in control of the amount or type of traffic received by Safari; Apple is.”
One particular thing Google pointed to was a recent change to Siri, dubbed Siri Suggestions. This feature, Google said to Apple, could be eating into the number of searches coming from iPhone users by presenting too much information without sending users to the actual Google search results.
Pichai, who testified that he meets with Tim Cook around once a year to discuss their partnership, had an idea that could be mutually beneficial. During one of these meetings, Cook told Pichai that he believes Apple and Google should be “deep, deep partners, deeply connected where our services end and yours begin.”
“We said one of the things that works well on Android, which drives increased usage, is a Google Search application,” Pichai testified. “So I proposed that we could build a Google search application for iOS… and we would be committed to supporting the product for many years.”
According to emails from Harrison, the goal of this app would’ve been to create something that people associated with Google, instead of Apple focusing on Siri and Spotlight search results. “People trust us to get this right and trust us with the content of what they are searching for,” Harrison wrote in an email.
“Tim listened but did not react to this specifically other than noting we had different strengths,” Harrison wrote in his notes recapping the meeting between Pichai and Cook.
Google already has a dedicated app for iPhone and iPad, but Pichai’s idea was seemingly to do something that was more integrated with the overall iOS experience. Whether this would’ve come in the form of a dedicated app or integration with Siri and/or Spotlight Search is unclear. What is clear, however, is that Pichai wanted something from Google to be pre-loaded on every iPhone.
A deal like this would’ve been mutually beneficial. Google would make more revenue from search, and Apple would get a cut of all that revenue. Still, Tim Cook wasn’t interested.
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