Apple and Yahoo are reportedly in discussions over some sort of partnership, according to a new report in The Wall Street Journal, which drew its information from unnamed sources “briefed on the matter.”
While the parties are quite some distance away from signing any sort of agreement, the report indicated that discussions have centered on “how more of Yahoo’s services can play a prominent role on Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices.”
Apple’s iOS—the operating system backing the iPhone and iPad—already relies on Yahoo data for a number of services, including its Siri voice-activated digital assistant. In theory, a deeper partnership would lead to Yahoo’s services and data baked into more parts of iOS—including, potentially, search.
By embracing Yahoo, Apple could partially solve one of its most irritating conundrums: how to separate further from Google, which until recently served as a data provider for iOS apps such as Maps. The increasing antagonism between the two companies led Apple to release a homegrown Maps app in late 2012—one that attracted considerable criticism from the outset for its inaccurate data and poorly rendered imagery.
The Maps debacle underlines Apple’s need for a partner with considerable experience in building and maintaining cloud-based apps and services. Yahoo certainly fits that description, despite its being overshadowed in recent years by Facebook and Google. Such a partnership would benefit Yahoo by giving it a strong mobile partner, something it currently lacks; it’s an open question (and one raised by the Journal) whether an agreement with Apple would irritate Microsoft, which already has a search-and-advertising partnership in place with Yahoo.
If an agreement takes place, and Yahoo becomes the default search engine for iOS devices, it would lead to a peculiar Silicon Valley hairball: Microsoft’s backend infrastructure currently powers Yahoo search, meaning that Microsoft would be effectively lending its considerable muscle to a rival in the mobile space. In that case, you can bet that Microsoft’s lawyers would pick over the Yahoo partnership agreement for any loopholes or leverage.
For the moment, however, it’s anyone’s guess what form an Apple-Yahoo partnership would take. It would certainly give Yahoo a bigger platform to show off its upcoming mobile initiatives. Whether that would be enough to help turn Yahoo’s fortunes around, though, is another matter entirely.