Every now and then, speculation arises that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) will jump directly into the Web search market to take on Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL), which Tim Cook considers Apple's biggest competitor. While tensions between the two tech giants have continued to escalate in recent years, it hasn't made sense for Apple to launch its own search engine.
The most recent source of speculation is a new Apple job listing. Does it make any sense for Apple this time around?
What is Apple Search?
Apple is now looking for an engineering project manager for "Apple Search." Here's a description of what the Mac maker is looking for.
Apple seeks a technical, driven and creative program manager to manage backend operations projects for a search platform supporting hundreds of millions of users. Play a part in revolutionizing how people use their computers and mobile devices. Manage operational projects that support groundbreaking technology and the most scalable big-data systems in existence.
That sure sounds like Apple could be considering getting into the search business. It may stand to reason that Apple wants to hurt its biggest mobile platform competitor by building its own search platform, particularly as search is a crucial aspect of how people use their mobile devices.
However, nearly five years ago, Steve Jobs pointed out that Apple simply doesn't know anything about Web search, nor does it care to:
No, we have no plans to go into the search business. That's not something we know about. That's not something we care deeply about. Other people do it well. -- Steve Jobs, June 2010
Ultimately, this isn't a space where Apple has expertise, and Google has been perfecting its search algorithms for almost two decades at this point. If Apple truly wanted to launch a search engine and be a viable competitor, it would need a shortcut, perhaps in the form of an acquisition.
Things may have changed a lot in the past five years under Tim Cook, but Jobs' rationale for staying out of search is largely still true.
A "search platform" isn't necessarily a "search engine"
However, a more plausible explanation is that Apple is interested in bolstering the search capabilities of its products, including both OS X and iOS devices. The company has been focusing heavily on improving Spotlight search in both operating systems, adding new features and use cases, as well as integrating web search into Siri (iOS).
In all likelihood, the "search platform" that Apple is referring to is its user interface and experience – and not the underlying search technology. In recent years, Apple has actually been integrating Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Bing into its search functions, including both Spotlight and Siri.
Google's spot as the default search engine in Safari is reportedly up for grabs, as its current contract expires in early 2015. Of course, Microsoft would love to displace Google, but Yahoo! (which is still powered by Bing) is also vying for the spot. Marissa Mayer confirmed as much on the conference call last month, and scoring Apple would be a great follow up to winning over Mozilla Firefox.
As it stands, don't count on Apple launching a search engine anytime soon. The company has always prided itself on its intense focus while leaving certain areas to other companies. Search is one of those areas.