Key staff driving Apple search engine leave to rejoin Google

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Four years after Laserlike was acquired by Apple to boost its web search technology, the founders have quit to rejoin Google.

Prior to forming Laserlike in 2015, Anand Shukla, Srinivasan Venkatachary and Steven Baker were all Google employees. Their work at Apple is one reason the company has been predicted to launch its own search engine equivalent to Google's.

Apple acquired Laserlike in 2018, though the deal wasn't made public until the following year. As part of the acquisition, the company's three founders were, and ultimately they led a 200-strong search team at Apple.

According to The Information, Srinivasan Venkatachary has now returned to Google. He is reportedly the company's new vice president of engineering.

Venkatachary reports to James Manyika, senior vice president of technology and society. Baker and Shukla now both work on Manyika's team. It's not known whether all three quit Apple at the same time, or whether Venkatachary is just the latest to move.

The Information cites an unnamed source with the details of the move, and the source also estimates that Apple is four years away from launching a Google rival.

Rumors of Apple planning to make its own search engine got a boost after the launch of iOS 14 in 2020. Siri Suggestions were then reportedly being rooted through Apple's Spotlight Search service, rather than being passed to Google.

With long and involved projects like search, it's not uncommon for staff to move between Apple and Google. In 2018, the same year Apple bought Laserlike, it also poached John Giannandrea from Google.

Giannandrea had been at Google for eight years, leaving as head of Machine Learning. He's now Apple's senior vice president of Machine Learning and AI Strategy.