The ongoing Department of Justice lawsuit against Google poses a potential threat to Apple, with claims that Google engages in unfair competition within the internet search market.
The lawsuit, currently being heard in a federal district court in Washington, highlights Google’s yearly payments to Apple (AAPL) to secure its position as the default search engine on iPhones and the Safari web browser. According to the government’s argument, these payments are designed to solidify Google’s dominant position in search. Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet (GOOGL), vehemently denies these allegations.
Bernstein analyst, Toni Sacconaghi, outlined in a research note on Monday that the court may invalidate the relationship between Google and Apple. Such an outcome would likely have negative implications for investors. Sacconaghi estimates that Apple receives annual payments ranging from $18 billion to $20 billion from Google, accounting for approximately 14% to 16% of the company’s overall operating profit.
The specific details of this agreement have never been publicly disclosed by either party involved.
Sacconaghi also noted that a ruling in this case, expected no earlier than 2024, would likely be subject to appeal and could potentially take years to reach a final verdict. While Apple’s shares may experience a negative impact in the long run, Sacconaghi concluded that the termination of Google’s payments would not burden Apple economically.
The Future of Apple’s Search Engine
Apple has the potential to shake up the search engine landscape by partnering with another search engine as the default option. Among the likely alternatives, Microsoft’s Bing would be a strong contender. However, it is also possible that Apple could launch its own search engine to provide users with an alternative choice.
According to industry analyst Sacconaghi, if Apple were to introduce its own search engine and achieve even moderate success, it could potentially generate more revenue than it currently does from Google. While it may not initially compete head-on with Google, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) technology could revolutionize consumer behavior.
Apple’s strong brand identity and emphasis on privacy could give it a significant advantage in capturing market share. Google’s dominance in search is largely due to its network effect, where its vast share of search queries prevents other players from accumulating the necessary data to build competitive search offerings. However, if Apple can attract a substantial number of queries, it could improve its own search capabilities and become a more credible challenger over time.
In conclusion, while the idea of Apple stepping into the search engine arena seems ambitious, its potential impact cannot be underestimated. With the right strategy and a focus on privacy, Apple could reshape the search engine landscape and create a more competitive environment.