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Apple and Microsoft: the new tech coalition

Apple and Microsoft: the new tech coalition

Apple and Microsoft unite against all-conquering Google search juggernaut, as Bing powers Siri in iOS 7

Microsoft's Bing team discuss the challenges and benefits of working with Apple for iOS 7 search queries, as Apple and Microsoft become the new tech power couple.

As iOS 7 - in which Siri search queries will be handled by Microsoft's Bing engine - nears its autumn launch date, Microsoft has been discussing the challenges and benefits of working with Apple. The former deadly rivals appeared to have forged a new alliance against their common foe, Google.

Speaking in an interview with The Verge, Microsoft's Bing team have said that working with Apple to create Bing-powered search results in Safari and in Siri in iOS 7 wasn't easy. But it's clear that both Apple and Microsoft are committed to their new alliance against Google's dominance of the search arena - at least for now.

The Apple-Microsoft alliance has been in the pipeline for several years. Derrick Connell, Bing's vice president of program management, explained that since about two years ago, when Apple included Bing as one of the search engines in Safari, the companies have been meeting regularly to discuss additional future collaborations.

"It was one of those meetings where we thought 'Wow, we're ready to work on the next thing together,'" Connell said.

As long-time rivals, Apple and Microsoft found that getting their products (and teams) to work together wasn't always straightforward. But Apple execs proved surprisingly happy to immerse themselves in the Bing experience and gain insights into the way Microsoft works.

"Managing the Windows work and the Apple work in some ways was not easy, but doable on our platform," said Connell. "I think a lot of the execs at Apple switched over to Bing for a period just to see if they could get the full experience of using Bing."

The Microsoft-Apple alliance: the future

Technology fans who got into computing in the 80s and 90s may find this era of co-operation between Apple and Microsoft baffling. Only a few years ago Apple was mocking PC users with its 'I'm a Mac' adverts, and it continues to push hard to capture desktop market share from Microsoft and its Windows platform. Microsoft, too, has been strenuously contesting Apple's traditional heartlands, with its confidently launched but still commercially unproven Windows Phone operating system taking the war to the iPhone and iPad.

The last time Apple and Microsoft came together for a big team-up - at the famous Macworld Boston keynote speech in 1997, where a video-linked Bill Gates towered over Steve Jobs as the pair announced that Office would appear on Macs for five years, while Internet Explorer would be the default browser on Macs - it was felt that Apple came out looking like the junior partner. But this time it feels very much like Microsoft is the Liberal Democrats to Apple's Conservative Party in the new tech coalition.

Like our blessed coalition government, of course, these two great rivals will continue to pursue their own agendas, and don't expect things to get any cooler in the battle between iOS and Windows Phone. Apple has proved that it can continue to work with even its bitterest opponents if its interests are served - namely in the continued interactions with parts of Samsung even while other parts of the companies were taking Apple to court, or being taken there in turn.

BBM on iPhone, Office Mobile on iPhone Everyone wants to be on the iPhone

We're dwelling here on Bing's integration with Siri in iOS 7, but in fact there have been two major signs of co-operation between Apple and Microsoft in the past couple of weeks. Microsoft has also finally relented on a long-standing refusenik position and brought its Office Mobile software to the iPhone (for Office 365 subscribers only).

BlackBerry, too, seems to have decided that if you can't beat them you might has well join them, and its much-cherished BBM messaging service will appear on iOS (and Android) in the near future.

And the last of Apple's main rivals in the smartphone market, Google, has of course long been the most co-operative of the lot, eagerly putting its search, mapping and YouTube products on iPhone except for those times when they were booted off.

The rest of the smartphone world, then, seems to be catching up with Google's approach, and both Microsoft and BlackBerry now reason that their first priority should be to expose as many consumers as possible to their flagship products, rather than jealously hoarding exclusives like games console markers.

Of course, the one exception to that continues to be Apple - but Apple learning of the joys of open sharing would be the biggest surprise of the lot.

[Related: Apple fans: Microsoft is no longer the enemy | Can Microsoft kill the iPhone? | Apple vs Microsoft - it's back on]

Follow David Price on Twitter | Follow Macworld UK on Twitter

Photo composite by the writer; original main photo by The Sun


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