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applegoogleThis week’s BusinessWeek cover story is about the increasingly competitive relationship between once-cozy Apple and Google. It contains a bold forecast by Jonathan Yarmis, a research fellow at consulting firm Ovum:

Yarmis thinks Apple may soon decide to dump Google as the default search engine on its devices, primarily to cut Google off from mobile data that could be used to improve its advertising and Android technology. [Apple CEO] Jobs might cut a deal with—gasp!—Microsoft to make Bing Apple’s engine of choice, or even launch its own search engine, Yarmis says. “I fully expect [Apple] to do something in search,” he adds. “If there’s all these advertising dollars to be won, why would it want Google on its iPhones?”

bing-search-engineWell, Apple would want Google on its iPhones because it sells phones. Hands up, who wants a Google-less iPhone?

But there’s a nagging truth here: Search engines on mobile devices haven’t been figured out yet. Typing text into a little box is aggravating. Voice-powered search tools have a high goof rate.

Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have spent millions on R&D, but it feels like mobile search needs a breakthrough app — the sort of thing Apple loves to do.

Yarmis agrees. “[Google chief executive] Eric Schmidt has said that the search problem is 99% solved, but, boy, is that self-serving,” he told BusinessWeek. “The fact that I have to go to a search bar at all is a sign of failure.” Fix that, and you could sell a lot of phones.

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