In a subpoena sent to Apple this week, the Justice Department asked the Cupertino, California-based technology giant to turn over documents related to efforts to hire Gomes and Giannandrea. The subpoena demanded all documents starting in Jan. 1, 2010, about attempts to recruit employees from Google, Microsoft Corp.’s Bing, Yahoo! Inc. and DuckDuckGo “with expertise or experience in internet search services or search advertising, including: John Giannandrea and Ben Gomes.” Representatives for Apple and Google declined to comment.
Apple Inc. went after a pair of high-profile targets when it was looking to employ new management for its Siri and artificial intelligence groups: Google’s top brass controlling search. Apple was able to recruit one of those executives, John Giannandrea, who formerly worked at Google as the head of search and AI, and hired him as the head of Siri and machine learning in 2018. That much has been established. According to documents presented by the Department of Justice in its ongoing antitrust action against Google, Apple wanted to employ Giannandrea’s top search deputy and eventual successor, Ben Gomes.
Though Apple doesn’t offer a Google-like search engine, it has gradually built up its search functionality via features embedded in its iPhone, iPad and Mac operating systems. Apple customers can use the Siri voice assistant or search panel to seek information, and Apple Music, the App Store and Maps have their own search engines.
The document doesn’t say when Apple attempted to hire Gomes, but any such effort wasn’t successful. Gomes remains at Google in a role running the Alphabet Inc.-owned company’s education efforts. He was search chief until 2020 after taking over for Giannandrea when that executive left for Apple. Gomes, who joined Google in 1999, is one of the company’s most veteran engineers and a central figure on the search team from the early days. Apple’s attempt to hire Gomes suggests that the company may have held ambitions to more broadly rival Google in search.