Yahoo and Microsoft's Bing are reportedly in talks with Apple, hoping to win the coveted default search provider spot on iPhone and iPad.
While some reports are weighing the technicalities as well as which one could disrupt Apple and Google's search partnership, we can't help but imagine whether Apple has a different plan.
The company has been actively working on things like local search for a while, for instance, and a web-crawling bot was recently spotted coming from Apple’s servers. These facts might suggest Apple is preparing to launch its own search engine soon.
Or they might mean something entirely different. Keep reading to learn more.
Is Apple and Google's search partnership coming to an end?
According to The Information, Apple and Google's search partnership, which was renewed in 2010, is finally set to expire next year, and so both Yahoo and Microsoft are currently competing to become the default search provider on Apple's mobile devices.
Apple hasn't even confirmed that it wants to replace Google in 2015.
Google is the default search providers on Apple’s mobile devices, though you can change it to either Yahoo or Microsoft’s Bing under Settings. That said, Bing currently powers Siri voice search on the iPhone and iPad as well as OS X Yosemite's Spotlight search feature.
That means Apple could conceivably ditch Google in favour of Bing. But what about Yahoo? Well, things are a little complicated in that arena. For instance, since 2009, Yahoo has been in a search alliance with Microsoft, in which the Yahoo search engine would be replaced by Bing for 10 years.
Marissa Mayer, the chief executive officer of Yahoo, is allegedly in favour of unraveling Yahoo's search alliance with Bing and even stepped outside of their pact recently by signing a deal that would allow Yahoo to become Firefox's default search option for five years.
In other words: Yahoo could also win the grand prize and become the default search provider on Apple's mobile devices. But it's too early to call. In fact, Apple hasn't even confirmed that it wants to replace Google in 2015.
Is Apple expanding its own search efforts?
Apple hired William Stasior in 2012. The company successful pulled the "prominent search technologist" away from Amazon, where he was the director of search and navigation and led the online retailer’s A9 program.
Apple planned to make a bigger push into the search business.
Stasior now serves as the vice president of the Siri unit, though Apple's in-house search technology team presumably got a major push with Stasior coming on board. Apart from his Amazon experience, he was formerly an executive at the search engine AltaVista.
AllThingsD had originally reported that Stasior would run Siri and suggested that both Siri and search functionality was becoming a subject of real interest at Apple. Many reports even speculated about whether Apple planned to make a bigger push into the search business.
Oh, and keep this in mind: Siri is not a search engine by definition, but it can certainly search for certain types of queries.
Local search in Maps
When Apple hired Stasior, it also began getting into local search. It dropped Google Maps for its own mapping solution in iOS 6, and the Apple Maps app launched with the ability to serve up reviews and other data from services like Yelp, TomTom, Acxiom, Localeze, and Waze
It's important to note that consumers rely on local search before making purchasing decisions. They use everything from smartphones to wearable gadgets in order to find businesses near them, reviews, and other important information they might need.
A recent Google study, which surveyed over 5,000 smartphone users, showed that 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information, for instance, and local searches lead to more purchases than non-local searches.
Local search on your wrist
Apple clearly sees the draw behind local search and is actively getting into the space. The Apple Watch, which releases in 2015, is set to extend local search functionality to your wrist by performing local searches via Siri (powered by Bing) and delivering turn-by-turn navigation.
And don't forget OS X Yosemite's new Spotlight Search feature. It not only searches your desktop but also delivers web search suggestions from Bing as well as data from other services such as Wikipedia, Maps, and Fandango.
It's clear that Apple is indeed expanding its own search efforts, though such baby steps are still miles away from fully replacing Google or becoming something akin to a standalone search provider.
Why is Apple crawling the web?
Apple Insider reported in November that a developer named Jan Moesen discovered a web-crawling bot coming from Apple’s servers. The bot was found crawling HTML sites and caused Moeson to speculate about whether he had stumbled upon some sort of yet-to-be-announced Apple project.
Search is becoming an important part of both Siri and Spotlight
Tech website Search Engine Land postulated that Moesen did find an official Apple project and that Apple might be doing "something purposeful" with a webcrawler, though the website didn't pad rumours about Apple taking on Google directly or possibly developing a search engine.
Search Engine Land instead acknowledged that web search is becoming an important part of both Siri and Spotlight and that Apple is likely crawling the web like a search engine would in order to beef up search capabilities in some way and stay competitive in the virtual assistant space.
Is Apple launching its own search engine?
Ah, Gene Munster. He's the managing director and senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, but he's most known for going on and on about Apple's supposed smart TV. He has claimed for years that Apple is secretly developing its hobby Apple TV set-top box into a full-fledged HDTV set.
'70 per cent chance' Apple would roll out a mobile search engine
But way back in 2010, he also made headlines by claiming there was a "70 per cent chance" Apple would roll out a mobile search engine tailored for its iPhone within five years. Needless to say, many were - and still are - skeptical about Apple building its own search engine.
It's probably more realistic to consider Apple might be attempting to further develop local search for its products rather than tackle what Google has taken more than a decade to build.