Microsoft Approached Apple With Offer To Sell Bing Search Engine

Google's antitrust case against the U.S. Justice Department was unsealed Friday, revealing that Microsoft offered to sell its Bing search engine to Apple in 2018.

In the filing, Google argued that Microsoft pitched Apple many times between 2009 and 2020 about making Bing the default engine in Apple's Safari web browser, but each time Apple said no. The document cites quality issues with Bing. 

The Justice Department wrote in its own unsealed that Microsoft spent nearly $100 billion on Bing over a period of 20 years. Microsoft launched Bing in 2009.



Microsoft then reached out to Apple in 2018, outlining gains in Bing's quality. Microsoft wanted to either sell Bing to Apple or build a joint venture based on Bing. 

“Microsoft search quality, their investment in search, everything was not significant at all,” said Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of services, according to 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 in 2021 paid more than $26 billion in exchange for being the default search engine on platforms such as Apple.

For Google, Bing, and other search engines, the key is the data. From each query, Google gains a little knowledge from people wanting information, and then it gives a little back, according to the document.  

Some elements of Google's search engine are trained on 13 months of data, per a court document -- a volume that would take Bing over 17 years to accumulate. 

The document calls out Google's "enormous advantage" given the company's position on mobile devices, providing an insurance policy against future competition.

Google also has loyal followers. When Google increased the prices of text ads by 5% or more, the company remained profitable because of its loyal customers and reach into consumers' pockets. 

Joshua Lowcock, the global chief media officer of Universal McCann, a division of IPG, testified that even if the price of Google’s text ads rose by 5%, the U.S. courts document stated he "would not recommend that clients move advertising spend elsewhere."

During the testimony, Lowcock explained that the primary purpose of advertising is to reach audiences and to reach people at scale.

The more scale a search engine can gain, the more important it is to buy advertising on that platform.

Based on market share, there is a limit to the amount of specific keywords an advertisers can buy on Bing.

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