Google claims Microsoft tried selling Bing search engine to Apple in 2018. Wikimedia Commons

Google, in a recent court filing, revealed that Microsoft offered to sell its Bing search engine to Apple in 2018, but the deal wasn't accepted due to concerns about Bing's search quality.

The documents, which are part of Google's filings, indicated that Microsoft made several attempts to encourage Apple to make Bing the default search engine for its Safari browser. Much to the software giant's chagrin, Apple reportedly refused the offer citing concerns about Bing's search quality compared to Google.

This news doesn't come as a surprise. Notably, Bing has faced criticism even in recent times regarding the accuracy and relevance of its search results compared to competitors, especially Google. For example, a new study has raised concerns about Bing's presentation of search results on the disputed group of islets, Dokdo (also known as Takeshima Islands in Japan).

Google emphasises its commitment to fair competition

The ongoing legal battle against Alphabet, Google's parent company, focuses on its alleged monopoly in web search advertising. This case highlights key agreements that the search giant has made with Apple and Android phone makers to guarantee the exclusivity of its search engine.

In October, a slide shown during the trial revealed that Google spent over a whopping $26 (£20.52) billion to keep its search engine the default. While this figure does not represent the payments to any one company, a CNBC report suggests Apple probably represents the largest recipient.

Google, on the other hand, has been sparing no effort to prove that it does not adopt an unfair strategy to remain a major player in the search engine segment. In a recent filing, Google disclosed that Microsoft pitched to Apple in 2009, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2020 about making Bing the default in Apple's Safari web browser, but each time, Apple turned down the offer due to quality issues with Bing.

Google dominates the search ad market while Bing struggles

"In each instance, Apple took a hard look at the relative quality of Bing versus Google and concluded that Google was the superior default choice... That is competition," Google wrote in the filing.

According to the Justice Department's newly unsealed filing, the Redmond-based tech company has spent nearly $100 (£78.91) billion on Bing over 20 years. To recap, Bing was launched in 2009, following in the footsteps of the MSN and Windows Live brands.

According to StatCounter, Bing currently holds a 3 per cent share of the global search engine market. This translates to $3.2 (£2.53) billion in revenue generated from search and news advertising during the fourth quarter alone. In comparison, Google's entire search and other revenue totalled $48 (£37.88) billion for the same period.

In fact, a 2023 report indicates that Microsoft's Bing search market share has decreased year over year despite ChatGPT integration. In its filing, Microsoft approached Apple in 2018, highlighting improvements in Bing's quality, proposing either selling Bing to the company or establishing a joint venture focused on the search engine.

"Microsoft search quality, their investment in search, everything was not significant at all," said Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of services, according to the filing.

"And so everything was lower. So the search quality itself wasn't as good. They weren't investing at any level comparable to Google or to what Microsoft could invest in. And their advertising organization and how they monetize was not very good either," Cue added.