Apple Rejected Microsoft’s Offer to Sell Bing in 2020, Report Says

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Apple and Microsoft discussed a possible sale of Bing

According to a new report from Bloomberg, executives from Microsoft and Apple met in 2020 to discuss a possible sale of Bing, the second-largest search engine in the US. However, the talks failed to progress beyond the exploratory phase, indicating that Apple’s top brass — including Eddy Cue, who was involved in the meetings — never seriously pursued the idea.

The report cites people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the situation was confidential. Microsoft reportedly pitched Apple on buying Bing as a way to replace Google as the default search engine on the iPhone maker’s devices. Google pays billions of dollars to Apple every year to secure its spot as the default option on iOS and iPadOS.

Apple had concerns about Bing’s quality and capabilities

One of the reasons why Apple declined acquiring Bing was the lucrative arrangement with Google, which generates billions of dollars in revenue for the Cupertino-based company. The report says that Apple was collecting $4 billion to $7 billion annually from the deal as of 2020. The agreement covers the Safari web browser for the iPhone, iPad and Mac, and Apple gets a percentage of the revenue that Google makes from searches in the Apple browser.

Another reason why Apple was not interested in buying Bing was the quality and capabilities of the search engine, which lagged behind Google in many aspects. Apple is said to have “had concerns about Bing’s ability to compete with Google in quality and capabilities.” This aligns with the testimony of Eddy Cue, Apple’s services chief, who said in the ongoing antitrust trial against Google that “there wasn’t a valid alternative to Google at the time” of the deal’s origin and that an equal has yet to emerge in the many years since.

Microsoft launched Bing in 2009 as a rival to Google

Microsoft launched Bing in 2009 as a rival to Google, but the search engine has never gained significant market share in the US or globally. According to StatCounter, Google had a 92.47% share of the global search market as of August 2021, while Bing had only 2.31%. In the US, Google had an 87.76% share, while Bing had 6.45%.

Apple Rejected Microsoft’s Offer

Bing has been losing money for Microsoft for years, and the company has been looking for ways to monetize it or sell it off. In 2015, Microsoft struck a deal with AOL to power its web, mobile and tablet search, while AOL took over the sales of display, mobile and video ads on Bing. In 2016, Microsoft and Yahoo renegotiated their search partnership, giving Yahoo more flexibility to enhance the search experience on its properties.

Apple and Microsoft are now embroiled in the government’s suit against Google

The report of the failed talks between Apple and Microsoft comes at a time when both companies are involved in the government’s antitrust suit against Google, which accuses the search giant of abusing its dominance in the market. Apple and Google’s search engine deal is central to the case, as the Justice Department argues that it prevents competition and innovation in the industry.

Apple and Microsoft have both testified in the trial, which began on September 20 and is expected to last for several weeks. Microsoft’s Mikhail Parakhin, the chief technology officer of Bing, said that Apple is making more money on Bing existing than Bing does. He also said that Microsoft has tried to persuade Apple to switch to Bing, but Apple has only used the threat of doing so to extract more money from Google.

Apple’s Eddy Cue, the senior vice president of internet software and services, said that Apple uses Google because it’s the best search option available. He also said that Apple has invested in its own search features, such as Siri and Spotlight, which use Bing as the default provider. He denied that Apple has ever seriously considered switching to Bing or any other search engine.

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