(Bloomberg) -- A Microsoft Corp. executive complained that when it came to the search-engine wars with Alphabet Inc.’s Google, the company’s Bing was never more than a bargaining chip to Apple Inc.
Microsoft has been trying for years to displace Google as the default search engine for iPhones, but Apple never seriously considered switching to Bing, Mikhail Parakhin, the head of Microsoft’s advertising and web services, said during the US government’s antitrust trial against Google in Washington.
“Apple is making more money on Bing existing than Bing does,” the Microsoft executive said. “We are always trying to convince Apple to use our search engine.”
Parakhin, who joined Microsoft in 2019 from Russian search engine Yandex NV, said Microsoft met with Apple as recently as 2021 to discuss a potential switch to Bing, but didn’t make any progress.
It would be “game changing” for Microsoft if Bing became the default search engine on iPhones, Parakhin said. “We are worse on mobile because we don’t have traffic.”
In response to Google’s lawyers, Parakhin said it was “uneconomical for Microsoft to invest more” in technology for the mobile search market. “Unless Microsoft gets a more significant, or firmer guarantee of distribution, it makes it uneconomical to invest.”
Apple has used Google as the default search engine in its Safari browser since 2003 in exchange for a share of the advertising revenue earned through searches made on its devices. The US Justice Department alleges that the contract and others like it have allowed Google to illegally maintain its monopoly over the online search market.
Google denies the government’s claim and says users choose its search engine because it is the best one.
The exact amount of money Apple earns from the Google deal is confidential, but the Justice Department said it’s between $4 billion and $7 billion a year. On Tuesday, a top Apple executive testified that the iPhone-maker agreed to “support and defend” the contract with Google in any regulatory challenges including the Justice Department’s lawsuit.
The case is US v. Google, 20-cv-3010, US District Court, District of Columbia.
(Updates with quote from court testimony. An earlier version was corrected to say Google was the default search engine for iPhones.)
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