In Apple’s Mind, The Enemy of My Enemy is a Friend

The World Wide Developers Conference kicked off this week and among the revelations from developers, one of the most curious came from Apple upon the unveiling of its new iOS 7. The upgrade for iOS on Apple’s mobile devices has received mostly impressive reviews and represents the biggest change to its mobile OS since its development. Despite all the positive reviews, there was considerable confusion over one move from Apple.

iOS 7 banner.

iOS 7 coming this Fall, likely with a new iPhone in tow.

When iOS 7 launches, its popular personal assistant SIRI will no longer conduct searches using Google’s search engine, but instead switches to an old enemy of Apple. In a move that is confusing to say the least, Apple switched the default search engine for SIRI from Google to Microsoft’s Bing. The move pushes one enemy away while embracing another with open arms, and is very thought provoking.

Why it Makes Sense

It is really no surprise to see Apple push Google to the side as its default search engine on iOS 7; after all it’s not the first time this has happened. Last year, when Apple launched iOS 6 for iPhone and iPad devices the operating system no longer featured Google Maps as the default mapping service.

Instead, users were treated to Apple’s own new mapping services known as Apple Maps. Aside from the maps showdown, there is the fierce competition between the two in the smartphone and tablet marketplace where the iPhone and iPad square off against Android devices. Additionally, the two companies have tangled in the court of law over patent violations several times over the years.

Given their long track record as foes, it should come as no surprise that Apple would snub their biggest mobile rival in favor of another search service. Unlike previous searches, the SIRI app will now show the results of a search inside the app powered by Bing. Previously, SIRI would show results of a search in the Safari web browser powered by Google.

Why it is Utterly Confusing

In pushing Google aside, Apple is embracing another enemy with whom it has tangled for decades. Bing is the brainchild of Microsoft, a company that Apple has battled with from its inception over three decades ago. The two companies have battled for years in the desktop, laptop, and handheld device marketplace.

Seeing the two competitors’ team up together now seems odd, especially given Microsoft’s entrance into the smartphone race. When the smartphone race was kicked off by Apple with the iPhone in 2007, Microsoft was by all accounts a bit player with outdated PDAs at best. However, in the last three years Microsoft has re-emerged as a player in the smartphone race.

The latest Windows Phone operating software is gaining notoriety and popularity among consumers. Windows Phone 8, along with a stable of sleek and powerful phones, has placed Windows Phone devices in third place in the market (behind Google and Apple) with the chance to make a serious run at Apple for second.

Common Goal

From a search engine standpoint, the debate remains about which service is actually better. Without question, Google remains the top choice by Americans and most others around the globe. Bing has launched a renewed Bing it On challenge recently, but regardless of the commercials it would seem consumers still prefer Google.

The May 2013 figures for search data in the U.S. were recently released by comScore, and Google remains at the top in overall search. While Google came in stagnant at 66.7% (66.5 in April, 66.7 May 2012), Bing jumped to 17.4% from 15.4% in May 2012. However, many of those gains on the part of Bing are coming at the expense of Yahoo and not Google. Yahoo’s command of search fell from 13.4% in May 2012 to 11.9% in May 2013.

When it comes to mobile search, Google’s dominance is even more staggering. Although it previously commanded 95% of search on mobile devices, Google still claims an astounding 84% compared to 11% for Yahoo and a paltry 5% for Bing. (See below)

The two enemies might be working together to achieve a common goal that would serve both in different sectors. By teaming with Apple on iOS 7 capable devices, Microsoft can position Bing to starting chipping away at Google’s mobile search dominance. Additionally, if Bing sways mobile customers perhaps those same individuals will start using Bing more frequently on other devices.

For Apple, embracing Bing over Google may show mobile customers that there are flaws in Google’s ability and perhaps some will be less impressed by Android powered devices. Any dent Apple can make in Android’s market share is a good dent.

However, this common goal has pitfalls for both sides. If Bing proves itself on iOS 7, that doesn’t mean consumers would necessarily flock to Microsoft desktops or laptops that compete directly against Mac devices from Apple. For Apple, a good showing from Bing could boost Windows Phone devices in the minds of consumers, threatening its status as the number two in the market place.

At the end of the day, many of the possibilities above could be unfounded concerns for both sides. As long as iOS 7 users get useful search results, they are not likely to care all that much which search engine provided them. It is worth noting as well, that the Safari web browser on iOS 7 will still use Google as the default search engine.

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