Apple is reportedly at least four years away from being able to compete with Google on search, and it’s losing talent to boot.
A new report points to changes within Apple that have seen the company buy Laserlike, a business founded by Google engineers and focusing on AI news. But a number of the employees that came with that buyout have now left – and they’ve gone back to Google, too.
The Information reports that Apple bought Laserlike in 2018 and put co-founder Srinivasan Venkatachary in charge of the company’s search team with at least 200 people working under them. That team was reportedly responsible for working on things like Spotlight and the Siri voice assistant.
However, it’s now reported that Venkatachary has returned to Google to take a role as vice president of engineering. And others have made the pilgrimage back to Mountain View as well, including Laserlike co-founders Steven Baker and Anand Shukla.
Losing such talent could potentially leave Apple at a disadvantage in its attempts to improve its own search capabilities, especially at a time when rumors of its intention to compete with Google continue to bubble along.
As for whether Apple can seriously do battle with Google in a business that it’s had sewn up for years, it seems not. At least not yet. “Apple is still at least four years away from launching a potential Google search replacement”, the report says, citing an unnamed source who has worked with the team in question. They go on to say that an increase in budget would be required, while a deal to bring Microsoft’s Bing or similar search on board would also help.
As for why Apple would want to compete with Google, it isn’t immediately clear. Google famously pays Apple up to $12 billion per year to make its search the default on iPhones around the world.