Bing has gained another win with Apple, becoming integrated into a new version of Spotlight in Apple’s forthcoming Mac OS X “Yosemite” operating system and in the coming iOS 8 mobile operating system. Spotlight will also tap into a wide-range of search resources similar to how Siri works on iOS.
During Apple’s WWDC keynote today, the company shared how a revised version of Spotlight will allow typing on the desktop (rather than clicking on small magnifying glass in the menu bar) in order to search your computer for apps and documents.
Beyond that, Spotlight is gaining search smarts that will allow it to display results from Apple Maps, Wikipedia, movie showtimes, Bing web searches and other sources.
Spotlight Gets Search Smarts; Big Win For Bing
Here’s a screenshot listing some of the new capabilities from The Verge (I couldn’t snap it fast enough):
This is a big new integration for Bing, which last year knocked Google out of Siri. Currently, Spotlight offers a “Web Searches” option which launches Safari (if you haven’t changed your default browser), which in turn runs a Google search, as Google is the default on Safari.
Is A “Siri” Search Engine Is Coming?
It’s also a sign that Apple might be moving to turning Siri into its own branded search engine. Spotlight is handling a variety of different search tasks, similar to how Siri can. That’s a big change, and it could be a move toward Apple further distancing itself from Google search by using Siri as a stand-in.
As I wrote in 2012, Apple might find it difficult to just drop Google as its search default and replace it with Bing, because people love (and expect) Google for search just as much as they may love Apple. But moving to Siri is a stealth way of weaning people off Google:
Potentially, Apple could build its own search engine. Various people have been speculating on that for years. I’m dubious about it, because I’ve seen just how difficult it is for companies to do search at scale. It’s not Apple’s core strength, and it would face huge competition from both Google and Microsoft….
No, what you do if you’re Apple is what you’re already doing. You keep growing Siri to work with other search partners, to keep Google contained, to win away areas of search where you feel confident Google won’t be missed.
Eventually, maybe you launch an Apple search engine that’s a web-based version of Siri. Perhaps you even call it Siri and make it available through Siri.com. Over time, as Siri continues to grow with answers to popular searches from selected providers, you might eventually change the “backup” search engine that kicks in for when you don’t have a partner. Silently, Google gets replaced by Bing.
That’s how you fight Google, if you’re Apple. No bombs get dropped; no consumer is even aware that you were fighting a war.
That strategy has clearly worked with Siri. Google was dropped for Bing last year, and there was no outcry as seen when Google Maps was dropped for Apple Maps.
Now the change bring Bing into Spotlight, which also gains other types of search results such as maps and movie reviews:
Thanks To Deal, Google Still Rules In Safari
Interestingly, Apple’s not taking the full plunge. Safari also has a new ability to tap into Spotlight. But there, if a web search is suggested, that’s going to come from Google, not Bing:
My guess is there’s a contractual issue here. Apple is probably still required to use Google in desktop Safari searches, thanks to long-term deal that we know little about, other than it was last revealed as being renewed in 2011.
So Apple can drop Google from the edges, from Siri, now from Spotlight but not yet from Safari. Or, perhaps it could drop Google from Safari now but doesn’t really want to. Because despite the quiet drops behind-the-scenes, Google got at least two big shout-outs during WWDC.
For example, Google was shown as being integrated with Spotlight in the forthcoming iOS 8 (again, another Verge picture here):
Odd, right? It’s Bing with Spotlight for Mac OS X Yosemite but Google for Spotlight in iOS 8? Again, there’s probably a deal related to Google being in Safari — mobile Safari this time — where Apple can’t drop it. (NOTE: See our postscript below; Microsoft says it will power Spotlight in iOS 8, also).
But rather than gloss over Google being there, Apple highlighted that Spotlight on iOS 8 will have “great Google search suggestions,” not what you’d expect if Apple was only begrudgingly including Google in its latest operating system.
We’ll have a better idea how all this plays out when the beta version of Mac OS X Yosemite comes out this summer. But it seems likely that Bing is continuing to grow trust within Apple as a Google alternative. And as for the idea that Yahoo would somehow get Apple’s search business? That looks even less likely.
But surprisingly, a much smaller player is getting a boost from Apple: DuckDuckGo. It’s set to become a search option in Safari, as our other story covers: Big Win For DuckDuckGo: Apple Adding To Safari As Private Search Option.
Postscript: Microsoft has sent this statement from Bing’s director of search Stefan Weitz:
Last year Bing became the default web search for Siri, and will now also be the default web search provider in the redesigned Spotlight search feature for the next generation of iOS and OS X. We’re excited about extending the Bing platform to help iOS and Mac customers find what they need to get things done.
It’s confusing, because Apple clearly showed Google coming up as the partner in Spotlight search — even naming it as I’ve described above. But I’ve double-checked with Microsoft, and it reaffirms that it is powering Spotlight for both the forthcoming versions of Mac OS and iOS. So our headline and opening paragraph have been updated.