Remember all the talk earlier this year that Apple was developing its own search engine, possibly even picking Microsoft’s Bing to replace Google as the default iPhone search? Well, such speculation has reignited. A popular Apple analyst now believes there’s a 70 percent chance the Cupertino, Calif. company will create a mobile search engine in the next five years.
Why would Apple go to the trouble when Google reportedly is paying $100 million each year to be the iPhone’s search? Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says the main reason is all about control, a word that gets the attention of Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
“We believe the company needs to develop its own search technology to protect data generated on the iPhone,” Munster said Tuesday. Although Google has a massive search base, Apple has the App Store, a wealth of information for an increasingly important family of mobile devices, including the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Data generated by the App Store could create what Munster described as “a mobile-centric search engine.” That effort could be hastened through purchasing a small company with a ready-built database, such as the startup Cuil.
Another reason the analyst expects Apple to produce a search product is the iPhone’s reliance on Google Maps to serve up mobile location data. “It is going to be critical for companies offering mobile platforms to own their own map data,” Munster said. Apple could quickly make progress on this front by buying a mapping company, such as Europa Technologies.
“Protecting the data generated on the iPhone OS platform must become an increasing priority for Apple and we believe the company has the resources to develop its own products in both maps and search in the next five years,” Munster said.