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As Google faces a massive antitrust lawsuit, revelations surrounding the case have presented us with a glimpse into an alternate reality. Microsoft reportedly discussed selling Bing to Apple just a few years ago, and if the deal went through, Google would have no longer been the default search engine on iPhone.
Bloomberg reports that the discussions between the two tech giants occurred in 2020, citing anonymous sources. According to the outlet, Microsoft execs met with Eddy Cue, Apple’s services chief, to crack a deal that would see the company take control of Bing from Microsoft in an acquisition. Cue is credited with brokering the agreement between Apple and Google to get the search engine as the default on the iPhone. However, it doesn’t appear that these talks with Microsoft reached any actionable stage, and were mainly exploratory.
Microsoft and Apple did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment.
News of these potentially paradigm-shifting conversations occurs as Google is embroiled in an antitrust case in which the tech company began squaring up against the Department of Justice earlier this month. The Justice Department is arguing that Google is the primary search engine amongst the public, in part, because its parent company pays big tech actors like Apple, Samsung, and Mozilla to place the product as the premiere web crawler in their devices and browsers. These payouts, the Department argues, are anticompetitive as they discourage other tech companies from developing their own search engine in a marketplace where a multibillion-dollar war chest is necessary to play the game.
Bing has always been the punchline of search engines. An iPhone with Bing feels like an uncanny amalgamation of a piece of genuinely world-changing technology and a search engine desperately clinging to relevancy—at least in 2020. Bing’s recently seen increased attention (and traffic) as Microsoft poured billions into a deal to integrate OpenAI’s tech with its products. The two companies, however, are reportedly on shaky ground. Microsoft doesn’t technically own OpenAI but offers cloud computing infrastructure in exchange for a hefty chunk of profit until the tech startup pays back Microsoft’s investment.