We believe Apple could utilise 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.
An iPhone specific search engine could be a difficult undertaking, but we feel Apple could make a minor acquisition of a search company that has built a web index, like a Cuil, and utilise the index as the base for building its own engine.
We believe the odds of Apple developing a search engine in the next five years are 70%. One hurdle for Apple in developing its own search engine would be generating enough advertiser interest to form a competitive marketplace; however, we believe the rationale for an Apple search product is to protect data rather than generate profit.
That data is the most important aspect of the (increasingly strained) Google-Apple relationship, says Gene. With Google Maps and search on the iPhone, Gene thinks Google gains valuable insights into mobile consumer behaviour. Google can then use this data to improve its own mobile products as fast as Apple, if not faster.
That said, we’re still sceptical that Apple would build its own search engine.
Apple would need a bigger concern than just protecting its users’ data to invest all the time and money it would need to build a search engine.
Surely, Apple knows that to keep a captive search audience, even if its user interface is better than Google’s or Bing’s, its search results would also need to be better than Google’s. That is a very large undertaking — something many, including Cuil, have tried and failed at. (And even if Apple does make a good search engine, people could still go around it and use Google. So it’s really impossible to make a Google-free iPhone, no matter how hard Apple tries.)
What about Apple switching to Bing? Munster doesn’t see it happening this year, and only gives it a 25% chance of happening in 2011.
Munster also writes that Apple will eventually have its own Maps offering. He writes that surrending maps to Google means giving up location data, one of the key components of a mobile platform. Gene sees Apple acquiring a map data provider like Europa Technologies.
Related: Apple’s war with Google heats up →