WWDC Apple has used its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, held this week in San Francisco, to play internet giants against each other.
On Monday, the iPhone maker revealed a pact with Microsoft to make Bing the default web search engine for its desktops and devices – swapping out Google.
The change will affect Spotlight in the forthcoming edition of OS X Yosemite (version 10.10) and future editions of iOS for handhelds. The news came on the day Bing marked its fifth birthday.
Microsoft’s senior director of search Stefan Weitz welcomed the deal in a statement, adding that Redmond is “excited about extending the Bing platform to help iOS and Mac customers find what they need to get things done”.
Microsoft would not comment directly at time of writing. Incidentally, Bing was named the search engine for Apple’s digital assistant Siri in a deal announced at last year’s WWDC.
In a further kick to Google and its ad-reliant business model, Apple’s Safari web browser will work with DuckDuckGo, a web search engine that promises to not track users activities online.
Monday's Bing news represents a further cooling in Apple’s relationship with Google that started when the advertising giant started pushing iOS-rival Android.
That move drove Google bigwig Eric Schmidt to resign from Apple’s board in 2009; three years later, Apple was going it alone – disastrously – with its own crap maps in iOS, rather than use Google's mapping system.
Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer (Does Apple have any friends?)
Apple isn’t getting too cosy with Microsoft – and the search deal, while beneficial to the Windows giant, is a firm enemy-of-my-enemy play.
That’s because Apple, again on Monday, announced iCloud Drive: a file-sharing addition to its online iCloud backup service. That puts it on collision course with Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud-based file locker, DropBox, and Google’s similar online Drive system.
Apple’s iCloud Drive will let you upload, share and sync files from Macs running OS X Yosemite, and suitable iThings. It will also be available to tablets and PCs running Microsoft’s Windows 8.
Apple’s iCloud Drive will be built into the Finder on Macs, and can integrate with firms that host documents in the cloud.
iCloud Drive is Apple’s attempt to snare more fanbois' data, thereby becoming even more indispensable their daily lives while making money from renting out web storage space (iCloud Drive costs 99 cents a month for 20GB, or 200GB for $3.99 a month).
The service also pits Apple against online file locker startups such as Box and Dropbox – the latter Steve Jobs vowed to kill with iCloud.
It’s questionable whether iCloud Drive will mean much to anybody outside the Apple faithful as a brand. Also uncertain is whether iCloud Drive can actually take on SkyDrive, Google Drive and the upstarts.
That said, Apple is playing with fire at least on search. The deal is a victory for Microsoft’s Bing team, as it’ll mean access to millions of Mac users and owners of Apple’s smartphones and tablets. And it should allow Bing to learn from searches and improve its capabilities.
The further pay off for Microsoft will be that this helps Redmond develop its own Siri competitor, Cortana, which uses Bing.
It will be interesting to see just how long Apple can work with Microsoft on Bing and if, or when, it rolls out its own search alternative. ®