Panic at Google: Samsung considers dumping search for Bing and ChatGPT

Panic at Google: Samsung considers dumping search for Bing and ChatGPT


The New York Times has a big piece detailing Google’s “shock” and “panic” when Samsung recently floated the idea of switching its smartphones from Google Search to Bing. After being the butt of jokes for years, Bing has been seen as a rising threat to Google thanks to Microsoft’s deal with OpenAI and the integration of the red-hot ChatGPT generative AI. Now, according to the report, one of Android’s biggest manufacturers is threatening to switch its new phones away from Google Search.

Of course, preinstalled search deals are more about cash than quality. Google pays billions every year to be the default search engine on popular products with deals framed as either “revenue sharing” or “traffic acquisition fees.” Google reportedly pays as much as $3.5 billion per year to be the default search on Samsung phones, while it pays Apple $20 billion per year to be the default search on iOS and macOS. The report notes that the Samsung/Google search contract “is under negotiation, and Samsung could stick with Google.”

This whole situation could just be a Samsung negotiating tactic. Google has a semi-credible search threat for the first time in years, and Samsung could be using that to push Google for a higher share of revenue. It’s not clear if Microsoft is even willing to play ball here. Microsoft is probably paying a lot for Bing’s ChatGPT integration—would it also be willing to match Google’s multi-billion-dollar payments? Samsung and Microsoft have an existing preinstall deal, to the point where there is usually a whole “Microsoft” folder preinstalled on the home screen, with apps like Office, OneDrive, LinkedIn, and Outlook.

If Samsung switched to Bing, it wouldn’t be the first time. In 2010 some models of the Galaxy S II shipped with Bing as the only search engine, and it wasn’t easy to change back to Google. Back then, Bing was new and ambitious and was attempting to beat Google’s market share, but after years of not gaining any traction, it feels like that ship has sailed at Microsoft. Recently, when Bing rode the ChatGPT hype to 100 million daily users, Microsoft VP Yusuf Mehdi said, “We are fully aware we remain a small, low, single digit share player. That said, it feels good to be at the dance!” That sounds like a company that is content with being in a distant second place, not one that has the budget and bravado it would take to rival Google Search.

Microsoft But look at all this AI stuff we might someday launch, maybe

The Times article then goes on to vaguely cover a few AI projects that Google hopes will entice Samsung to not switch to Bing. Again, though, these preinstall deals are a question of billions of dollars, not AI features. If Samsung cared about AI features, it could just sign a deal with OpenAI directly and keep the ~$3 billion Google Search deal, but we’ll play along with the article’s premise, I guess.

The report goes over a cache of “internal documents” from Google that detail several future AI efforts under the project name “Magi.” (Along with “Bard,” Google’s AI code names presumably have a Dungeons & Dragons theme?) The report describes one plan, saying, “Google is racing to build an all-new search engine powered by the technology. It is also upgrading the existing one with A.I. features, according to internal documents reviewed by The Times.” An “all-new” version of Google Search would certainly be a major undertaking.

The report describes a new, more “predictive” search engine that “would learn what users want to know based on what they’re searching when they begin using it. And it would offer lists of preselected options for objects to buy, information to research, and other information. It would also be more conversational—a bit like chatting with a helpful person.” The report adds that 160 people are working on the project.

Critically, this version of a Google chatbot (unlike Google Assistant) would have ads and the possibility to even make money. The report says, “Magi would keep ads in the mix of search results. Search queries that could lead to a financial transaction, such as buying shoes or booking a flight, for example, would still feature ads on their results pages.” Bard, Google’s ‘experimental’ chatbot, does not have ads and is not part of Google search at this time.

The report went on to give one-sentence descriptions of a bunch of other AI projects that are in various stages of development. There’s a plan to somehow integrate AI with Google Earth. Another would help you search for music with a chatbot. A “GIFI” tool can generate images in Google Image search results. “Tivoli Tutor” would teach users a new language. “Searchalong” is a proposed Chrome extension that would integrate a chatbot in Chrome. Google has dusted off the old Google+ playbook and mandated that generative AI be built into all its products, so you’re going to be seeing and hearing about a lot of them.

Keep in mind none of this stuff may ever see the light of day. Google is notorious for developing AI technology and then locking it away in its “research” vault, while rivals like OpenAI commercialize the technology. Google developed the fundamental technology underpinning ChatGPT, but the slow and cautious approach, embodied by Google CEO Sundar Pichai, meant it was up to other companies to reap the profits from Google’s research.

A Google spokesperson downplayed the Times’ reporting, saying, “Not every brainstorm deck or product idea leads to a launch, but as we’ve said before, we’re excited about bringing new AI-powered features to search, and will share more details soon.”


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