Imagine a future where Apple disrupts the search market. Avram Miller, retired Intel vice president of business development, has done just that, painting that future in a (maybe, maybe not) fictional look back at how Apple developed that service, which he said would be called "Found."
Will Apple Find Search?
Firstly, I love that name for a search engine. Found. It's just great. "I Found it," or "Let me Find that for you" has a great ring to it. Mr. Miller is pretty coy about whether or not his fictional account is based on real information, but if Apple is working on search, Found would be a great name.
Secondly, I am biased in my approach to Mr. Miller's piece because it fits perfectly with what I said in February of 2013: Apple needs to go into search. In that piece, I said:
[Apple] needs search data to make both maps and local search on Siri better, and it has the added benefit of depriving that information from its fierce rival Google. When you put all that together, it's something Apple simply has to do.
I also argued that there was little chance that Apple didn't have some sort of search engine in development in its deepest, darkest labs. That's essentially what Mr. Miller wrote, saying that Steve Jobs started a super secret search project that he kept secret even from his board of directors.
The heart of this super secret search project was, "an amazing Israeli scientist who developed an algorithm for search that would have the same effect on Google as Google had on Alta Vista using Page Ranking." Coincidentally, Mr. Miller has spent the last several months in Israel, according to Robert X. Cringely, who is as bullish on this story as I am.
The goal of Found, according to Mr. Miller, is to hack the legs out from under Google, a company whose monetary success has come almost exclusively from desktop search. Found would not only disrupt search by doing search better—he doesn't specify how—but Apple would have little need to monetize the service. Think ad-free.
Personally, I'm not on board with the last bit. Apple has been beefing up and constantly reshaping its iAd department. I've long suspected that iAd has bigger goals than what we know about. Even more importantly, if Apple really wants to put the hurt on Google, taking search share won't be enough. Apple needs to bleed revenue away from today's search giant, too.
Still, a best-in-class, ad-free search engine financed by the hardware profits from iPhone, iPad, Mac, iWatch, and other hardware products? A search engine where I pay for the product, rather than being the product? If Apple could do that, sign me up.
Other tidbits included in Mr. Miller's piece include Steve Jobs making Tim Cook promise to continue development of Found, and that Mr. Jobs recorded a message for the eventual launch of the product, which would take place in 2015.
Like I said, though, he plays coy with the whole thing. At the end, he wrote, "OK, this was all made up or was it? You will have to wait for about 1 1/2 years to find out."
I'd like to think it was based on something real Mr. Miller discovered either in Israel or here in Silicon Valley, where he lives down the street from Robert X. Cringely. I think Apple needs search to make Siri all that she can be, and to make Maps a better mapping service.
If Mr. Miller has it right, Apple Found that formula and is in the process of developing it. Let's hope he's right.