After much speculation by the search community, Apple recently confirmed the existence of Apple Bot – which essentially mimics the behavior of Googlebot in crawling websites. In addition, Apple Insider reported that through its 2013 acquisition of Topsy, Apple was devoting significant resources to making Spotlight Search a legitimate web search engine.
Traditionally, Apple has been primarily a hardware company and Google has been the 800-pound gorilla in search. If Apple succeeds at making Spotlight Search a legitimate Web Search Engine, the implications for both Apple and Google would be immense.
Currently Spotlight Search, which you can access on iOS devices with a downward swipe, primarily searches the content on your phone, applications in the app store, or major domain names as shown in my search for “techcrunch”. In contrast, when I search for a more detailed term like “cheap cable tv”, Spotlight Search comes up empty. Obviously Google currently handles this search better.
Imagine if Apple developed a web search engine that enabled Spotlight Search to produce Google-quality search results without needing to open Safari and launch Google. What if Apple, with its robust App Store, could include in Spotlight Search results not only the most relevant Apps, but also the best pages in those Apps, so that after download the App automatically opens the right page. Imagine if Apple could also show, via Apple map results, the closest stores selling “cheap laptops” so you could pick up one today? In other words, what if Apple could produce better results with less work? Well, count me in. I’m ready to sign up.
The implications of such a change to Spotlight Search are enormous, both behaviorally and financially. I’m not going to bore you with calculating the numbers, but such a change would certainly mean billions of dollars per year in profit transferred from Google’s pot of gold to Apple’s coffers.
Now, it’s going to take some time for iOS users to realize the Spotlight Search has gotten much better and start using it more often like they do with Google. But realize they will – and that should scare the living daylights out of Google or at least give Google execs some sleepless nights.
I wonder if in a few years, instead of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the search community will be focused on SSO or Spotlight Search Optimization? My gut says yes, and hopefully I can say you heard it here first.