On Friday, a report from Re/code’s Kara Swisher provided some insight into the maneuvers that led to Apple dropping Yahoo as a middleman in the iOS 8 Weather app, instead getting its data straight from The Weather Channel. That’s a huge loss, considering Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s efforts to increase the company’s presence throughout Apple’s mobile operating system.
Yahoo had basically been acting as a go-between all this time, repackaging data from The Weather Channel. But the Weather Channel wasn’t providing Yahoo with everything at its disposal, so its CEO David Kenny was able to step up and offer better location-aware weather data, and forecasts reaching farther into the future, directly to Apple.
This is an unfortunate loss for Yahoo, as the company’s leadership had hoped to tighten its relationship with Apple by making Yahoo the primary search engine used throughout iOS. A bold undertaking, considering Yahoo isn’t particularly well-known for its search technology and that its partnership with Microsoft to serve up search results from Bing has become an increasingly important source of revenue.
That hasn’t stopped Mayer from trying. Two major internal projects, “Fast Break” and “Curveball,” aimed to make the company’s technology competitive in the algorithmic search and search advertising arenas. The company has also been partnering with companies like Yelp to increase the amount of useful information available to its search offerings.
The effects of Yahoo’s efforts have only recently started to pop up in its major apps — thanks to some of its search acquisitions, Flickr’s search function now has the ability to recognize objects in photos and add tags without any user input, greatly expanding the amount of content that’s searchable on the network.
Even though its technology is improving, Yahoo doesn’t seem to be in a great position to become the default search engine in iOS any time soon. Its biggest problem is that Apple has been forming data partnerships of its own since Siri’s launch in 2011.
There’s no need to go to Yahoo when Apple can just go straight to Yelp or Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB and cut out any go-betweens. In fact, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Yahoo is worried about losing even more ground in the future: it’s been acting as a middleman for the data in the iOS Stocks app for years, a precarious position considering the many sources available for market information.
Ironically, the company most likely to take over search in iOS is long-time Yahoo search partner Microsoft. The new Spotlight search feature in the upcoming version on Mac OS X puts Bing at the center of Apple’s desktop user experience while seamlessly drawing in data from many of the same sources as Apple uses for Siri. With that in mind, it seems like Yahoo ending its arrangement with Microsoft in order to expand its own search offering would be ill-advised, to put it mildly.