Apple unveiled a slew of significant and even innovative product announcements at its World Wide Developers Conference keynote on Monday – announcements that represent both cosmetic changes and functional updates to the way users interact with its iPhones, iPads and Macs.
But the biggest impact for the tech industry and the ongoing mobile revolution – bigger than the new look of iOS 7, the launch of the Pandora-like iTunes Radio, or the introduction of a sleek, cylindrical new Mac Pro computer – may not come from one of Apple’s trumpeted unveilings. In fact, it may lie in what John Biggs at TechCrunch described as an “odd, throwaway line” delivered by Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, Eddy Cue, who casually touted the integration of search results from Twitter, Wikipedia and Microsoft’s Bing into Siri, Apple’s “personal assistant” software.
That’s Bing, as in “not Google.”
The new Siri integration cold provide a bit of a boost for Bing. “From a search perspective that’s potentially huge news,” wrote Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land, adding that, “If it’s a well-done integration it could also start driving lots of search volume for Bing.”Microsoft has made a very public push to convince users that its search results are better than Google’s, but it still trails far behind the company whose name is synonymous with Web search. Bing has 17.3 percent of the search market compared with Google’s 66.5 percent as of April, according to comScore. Apple will still use Google as the default search engine in its Safari browser – at least for now.
The shift to Bing search for Siri is just the latest sign of how much Apple wants to distance itself from Google – the other 800-pound gorilla in the world of mobile software – even if it means sleeping with last century's enemy. Microsoft now mocks both Apple’s iPhones and Google’s Android in its own ads for Windows 8 devices. Apple CEO took a swipe at Microsoft’s Windows and the PC industry overall during his keynote presentation. But the days when Microsoft was Apple’s biggest rival or frenemy are gone. The same goes for the time when Google’s CEO would take the stage with Apple’s CEO for a major product announcement, as Eric Schmidt did with Steve Jobs at the 2007 launch of the original iPhone. Instead, the companies are embroiled in an intensifying rivalry as they continue to build up opposing ecosystems for a post-PC world.
Apple made a very public push to lessen its reliance on the competition last year by pulling its default YouTube app and replacing Google’s maps app with its own, initially flawed version. Apple has also reportedly discussed a deeper partnership with Yahoo, which could offer apps without the same complications inherent in marketing a competing operating system.
Google, for its part, has tried to one-up Apple at every turn – and to do it not just on Android devices, but on iPhones and iPads as well. Despite Apple’s apps efforts, Google’s software is being used on iOS devices more than ever. Nearly 70 percent of iPhone owners used a Google app last month, up from 32 percent last August, according to reports citing data from mobile software developer Onavo.
As those apps and maps battles play out, and as the Android operating system and Samsung mobile devices continue to capture market share, the question for Apple’s investors is whether any of the new products and features Cook and Co. introduced on Monday will generate enough excitement to help propel the stock back toward its all-time high above $700. For today, at least, the answer was no, as the stock closed 0.66 percent lower, just below $439. Even after Apple’s long list of announcements Monday, the wait for the company’s next big thing goes on, as does Apple’s rift with its biggest and most threatening rival.