Google’s biggest setback: Samsung may ditch Google Search for Microsoft Bing

Samsung may burn a big hole in Google's pocket as it is considering to ditch Google Search for Microsoft Bing on all devices. OpenAI-powered Microsoft Bing is making heads turned. Samsung, which already receives roughly $3 billion per year to make Google Search the default search engine on its smartphones, is no exception.

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Perhaps this is the first time ever when Google is facing the toughest challenge from its competitor whose presence in the market has been negligible for many years. Yes, we are talking about Microsoft Bing – the search engine that accounts for just 2.88% of the global search engine market compared to 93.17% what Google has been securing for a long.

The table, however, has started rotating!

In March, Google employees were shocked to learn that Samsung, a South Korean consumer electronics giant, was exploring options of offering Microsoft’s Bing instead of Google as its default search engine in its devices.

Bing’s presence in the search engine market has been insignificant for years. It, however, became more interesting for industry insiders after Microsoft poured in with the new AI technology that has taken the world by storm.

The internal email, reviewed by New York Times, reveals Google’s panic response to the Samsung threat. The contract with Samsung, which is estimated to be worth $3 billion annually, is at stake now.

Samsung is not the only one posing a threat to Google. A similar contract with Apple, which will be renewed this year, brings in an additional $20 billion for Google.

Google has been racing to create a new search engine that uses AI technology to compete with competitors, such as the new Bing, which is becoming the most significant threat to Google’s business in 25 years. The company is also working on the war front to upgrade its existing search engine with AI capabilities, according to documents examined by The Times.

Designers, engineers, and executives at Google are working tirelessly in the so-called sprint rooms to test and tweak the new features under the project codenamed Magi. The new search engine will offer users a more personalized experience, anticipating their needs, and produce better results than any other search engine.

Google spokeswoman Lara Levin has clarified that not every product or brainstorming idea will come to fruition. But, she once again emphasised on the commitment to bring new AI-powered features to search.

Google’s search engine is used by billions of people every day to find restaurants, directions and medical diagnoses. That simple white page with a logo in the middle and an empty space in the centre with a search box is the most popular web page in the entire world. It was difficult to imagine that anything could be done to change it, as it has a major impact on people’s lives.

Google has been worried about AI-powered competitors ever since OpenAI, a Microsoft-backed Artificial Intelligence startup in San Francisco, released a ChatGPT chatbot in November. Within two weeks of ChatGPT launch, Google formed a taskforce in its search division to begin building A.I. products, reports NYTimes citing two people who were involved in the projects but not authorised to speak about it publicly.

Google has been obsessed with modernizing its search engine. The planned changes may make AI technology reach homes and phones around the world.

Samsung’s threat was the first crack in the dominant Google search business that was valued at $162 billion dollars last year. While it’s still unclear whether Samsung’s decision to sift from Google to Bing after 12 years is influenced by Microsoft’s success with AI or it’s just a rumour that is making rounds inside Google. Samsung may decide to stick with Google as the contract is still being negotiated.

Google employees were shocked to learn that Samsung, a company which produces hundreds of millions of smartphones each year with Google Android OS, might even consider switching its search engine.

When told by the company that it was looking for volunteers to help prepare material for a Samsung pitch, it immediately triggered many debates and possibilities related to some employees reacting with surprise and emojis. One person replied, “Wow, okay, that’s crazy.”

Google’s spokesperson stated that it was constantly improving its search engine so that users and partners would have more reasons to choose Google and that Android phone manufacturers were free to use technologies from other companies to enhance their users’ experience.

Google Working on AI for long

Google has been researching AI for years. The DeepMind laboratory in London is regarded as one of the most advanced AI research centres in the world. The company is a pioneer in A.I. Projects, including self-driving vehicles and so-called “large language models” that are used to develop chatbots. Google has been using large language models in recent years to improve its search results. However, it has not fully adopted A.I. as it has a tendency to generate false and biased statements.

Now, the focus is on gaining control over the next big thing in the industry. Google’s Bard chatbot was released last month, but failed to create enough traction, albeit attracted criticism and humiliation after the failed demo.

The plans for the new Google search engine, which is focused on redefining the search prince for users, are still in nascent stages. There is no ETA set by the company, leaving people clueless about when the new technology will be released.

The system would start producing enhanced results as and when users will start using it, as it will learn what they want to know. It would also offer pre-selected lists of items to purchase, information to research, and other information. It would be more conversational, like talking to a person who is helpful.

According to the internal documents, the Magi project is adding features to the existing search engine before it can rebuild the search engine grounds up. Google has reportedly employed more than 160 full-time people to work on it.

Magi will keep ads mixed in with the search results. Ads will still appear on the results page for search queries that can lead to financial transactions, like buying shoes or booking flights.

This is essential for Google and it’s impossible for the company to get any from traffic monetisation, given search ads are the company’s primary revenue stream. Bard, its chatbot, does not display ads. The tech industry has anticipated that A.I. answers on search engines may make ads less relevant for users. Hence, it’s bound to become challenging for Google to keep its revenue from ads buzzing.

According to a document, Google may place an ad under the computer code answers. It could also respond to questions about software coding or write code in response to a user request. According to a document, Google could place ads under the computer code solutions.

There are also chatters that Google may explore options to integrate affiliate links in responses given by Google. This is another way to keep the impact of lesser ads on revenue streams.

Google invited employees to try out Magi’s features last week and encouraged them to follow up with questions in order to evaluate its conversational capabilities. Google is expected to release these tools to the general public next month, and then add new features in the autumn.

After the recent debacle with Bard, the company now intends to release these features initially to a limited number of users – no more than one million. This number will gradually increase to 30 million by the end of the year. Besides, these features will only be available in the United States.

Google is also exploring ways to allow people to use Google Earth’s map technology with the help of AI. Google’s director of product management wrote that a chatbot could be used to search for music and have a conversation.

Other product ideas are in various stages of development. A tool called GIFI will rely on AI to generate and produce image search results. Tivoli Tutor, another tool, would use open-ended A.I. text conversion to teach users a language.

Another product, Searchalong would allow users to ask a chatbot question while browsing the web using Google Chrome. The chatbot could be asked to find activities nearby, an Airbnb rental, for example. The AI would scan the web page and search the entire internet to produce an answer that is more accurate and satisfying.

Aggressive targets are set for employees to develop and deploy these AI-powered features as soon as possible. For the company, however, the biggest challenge now is to convince its users that they are as “powerful and competent” as their competitors.

The long list of new features and tools that Google is working on proves that it’s going to be a bumpy ride ahead for the company. As OpenAI is becoming more and more powerful with each passing day, Bing is fast winning the confidence of users as well as companies and may soon start narrowing the gap with Google in the search engine market.

It would be interesting to see how exactly Google will tackle such a situation. Whatever be the situation, one thing is certain; Google will not leave any stone unturned to keep the impact of AI-driven Bing minimal on its cash cow.

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