Google Reveals Microsoft’s 2018 Offer to Sell Bing to Apple Amid Search Engine Competition

Microsoft offered to sell its Bing search engine to Apple in 2018, Google disclosed in a court filing earlier this month. The document, extracted from Google’s antitrust case against the U.S. Justice Department, was made public on Friday.

The legal dispute concerning whether Alphabet holds a monopoly in web search advertising delves into crucial agreements Google has established with Apple and Android phone manufacturers to ensure the exclusivity of its search engine. In 2021, Google allocated over $26 billion to maintain its search engine as the default option, as revealed in a slide presented during the trial in October. Throughout the case, Google has been endeavoring to demonstrate fair competition.

In the recent filing, Google contended that Microsoft proposed Bing to Apple in 2009, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2020 as a potential default search engine for Apple’s Safari web browser. However, on each occasion, Apple declined, citing concerns about Bing’s quality. “In each instance, Apple scrutinized the relative quality of Bing versus Google and determined that Google was the superior default choice for its Safari users. That signifies competition,” Google asserted in the filing.

Apple consistently chose Google over Bing
Apple consistently chose Google over Bing, emphasizing Google’s superior search quality.

The Justice Department, in its own recently unsealed filing, stated that Microsoft has invested nearly $100 billion in Bing over two decades. The tech giant behind Windows and Office introduced Bing in 2009, succeeding previous search endeavors under the MSN and Windows Live brands.

Presently, Bing commands a 3% global market share, according to StatCounter. In the fourth quarter, Microsoft garnered $3.2 billion from search and news advertising, while Google’s search and other revenues totaled $48 billion. Google mentioned in its filing that when Microsoft approached Apple in 2018, underscoring improvements in Bing’s quality, Microsoft proposed either selling Bing to Apple or establishing a Bing-related joint venture.

“Microsoft search quality, their investment in search, everything was not significant at all,” stated Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of services, as cited in the filing. “And so everything was lower. So the search quality itself wasn’t as good. They weren’t investing at any level comparable to Google or to what Microsoft could invest in. And their advertising organization and how they monetize was not very good either.”

Google invested $26 billion to maintain search engine
Google invested $26 billion to maintain search engine dominance, showcasing commitment to market leadership.

Google indicated that Apple CEO Tim Cook sent an email to Apple executives regarding the assessment of Bing, although his comments are redacted in the filing. Representatives for Google and Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In October, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella testified during the trial that he has “focused every year of my tenure as CEO to see if Apple would be open” to a default arrangement for Bing.

Cue testified that “if Apple did not receive the massive payments it sought from Google, Apple would have developed its own search engine,” as asserted by the Justice Department in its filing. Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources, reported in September that around 2020, Microsoft executives engaged in “exploratory” discussions with Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of services, about potentially selling Bing to Apple.

Sajda Parveen
Sajda Parveen
Sajda Praveen is a market expert. She has over 6 years of experience in the field and she shares her expertise with readers. You can reach out to her at [email protected]
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