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Apple Challenges Google Search With New AI Offering

Apple looks set to intensify the artificial intelligence (AI) arms race next month at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

Despite pioneering early AI efforts with the launch of Siri in 2011, Apple now finds itself lagging behind competitors like OpenAI, Meta, and Google, which are leagues ahead.

As Apple gears up to unveil new generative AI features at its Worldwide Developers Conference on June 10, the company is at a crossroads that will require significant strategic shifts or risk becoming an AI also-ran.

To that end, various reports now circle as to what new AI wizardry we can expect next month, with Apple set to potentially cause more AI-inflicted woes for an embattled Google.

Intelligent Search – AI-Enhanced Browsing and Text Summarisation

According to reports, one of the major AI-driven innovations in the upcoming Safari 18 browser is Intelligent Search, which enhances browsing and text summarisation capabilities.

Intelligent Search uses Apple’s on-device AI technology, specifically the Ajax language-learning model, to identify key phrases and topics within a webpage and create concise summaries.

Despite years of rumblings, Apple has not yet released its own standalone search engine.

By potentially focusing on innovative AI-driven tools and integrated search functionalities within its ecosystem, Apple could be looking to redefine the search experience itself rather than entering a head-to-head battle with established search engines.

AppleInsider, May 2024

“Apple’s text summarization features could be a response to rival generative AI tools, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

But Apple’s on-device models and technologies like Private Relay could make the experience much more secure for users. Intelligent Search is also likely to be the same AI browser assistant that one X user hinted at a couple of weeks back.”

Additionally, Apple is developing a powerful visual search feature that is expected to be integrated by 2025. This tool will enhance the Visual Lookup feature, enabling users to obtain detailed information on products directly from images within Safari.

Apple Follows Google’s AI Lead

Apple’s strategy to integrate AI-driven webpage summarisation into Safari 18 bears similarities to Google’s recent introduction of AI Overviews in Search.

Both companies are looking to leverage advanced AI technologies to enhance user experience by providing concise, relevant information quickly and efficiently.

Google’s AI Overviews aim to deliver a brief summary of search results, helping users find the most pertinent information without sifting through multiple pages. However, Google has faced several challenges in launching this feature in the US, including concerns about the accuracy of AI-generated summaries and the potential for misinformation.

Web Eraser – Enhanced Content Blocking

Safari 18 is also reported to introduce the Web Eraser, which allows users to remove unwanted content from webpages.

Web Eraser provides persistent content blocking, enabling users to erase ads, images, and text, thereby offering greater control over their browsing experience. The feature builds on existing privacy features and could help Apple attract users who value a clutter-free browsing experience.

AppleInsider, May 2024

“The erasure is said to be persistent, rather than limited to a browsing session. This means that Safari will remember the changes even after the original tab or window has been closed.

When visiting a web page with previously erased content, Safari will inform the user that the page has been modified to reflect their desired changes. The browser will also give the user the option to revert changes and restore the webpage to its initial, unaltered state.

As for where Apple got the inspiration for Web Eraser, the company could have Sherlocked the feature from the third-party app 1Blocker. The application features a similar way of erasing ads, where users would tap ads to make them disappear.”

The Road Ahead for Apple

Despite its advantages in money, talent, and a powerful platform, Apple faces significant challenges in the AI race. The company’s AI features, such as Siri, have been hindered by an emphasis on on-device processing and limited data collection, impacting the user experience.

However, reports claim that Apple plans to evolve by integrating high-end Mac chips into its data centres to handle online AI features, enhancing Siri’s capabilities, and adding proactive intelligence services.

To remain competitive, Apple will need to expedite its AI development and release cutting-edge features at a faster pace. Partnering with OpenAI to incorporate ChatGPT technology into iOS 18 is a strategic move, but Apple must eventually develop its own chatbot and integrate it deeply into its products.

Potential Negative Impacts on Marketers

Reduced Traffic from AI Summaries

Apple’s Intelligent Search, which summarises web content, may result in users obtaining the information they need directly from the summaries without clicking through to the original sources.

It is reasonable to expect this to lead to a decline in web traffic for marketers, impacting the overall reach and effectiveness of digital marketing strategies. As a result, businesses that rely heavily on website traffic for lead generation and conversions might experience reduced online engagement and revenue.

Decreased Ad Visibility

The Web Eraser feature, which allows users to block ads persistently, could significantly reduce the visibility of online advertisements. As users gain the ability to remove ads from their browsing experience, marketers might find it increasingly challenging to reach their target audiences.

Furthermore, for marketers’ own websites, users could select to remove or obscure key marketing messages or sections, again creating further challenges for conversion rates.

*Image credit: eMarketer

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