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Should Apple buy its own search engine?

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Some people bake bread during a pandemic. Others up their revolutions on the Peloton. Tech analysts at Bernstein, the research-focused brokerage, apparently sit around thinking deep thoughts about the future of mega-cap tech companies.

A troika of analysts unveiled a new report about a trio of tech giants—Google, Apple, and Microsoft—that asks a compelling question: Should Apple buy its own search engine?

The logic is compelling, convoluted, and potentially expensive. Here’s the short version: Google currently pays Apple in the neighborhood of $8 billion annually to be the default search engine on iPhones and other Apple devices. The Bernstein analysts reckon that figure isn’t so much a function of the economics to Google as what Google is willing to pay to keep Microsoft and its Bing search engine—which still exists, apparently—off Apple’s phones.

That’s an enviable position for Apple, but one the Bernstein analysts think could be jeopardized if Google decided to go it alone and if Microsoft chose not to step in at the same dollar value. Their prescription is for Apple to buy DuckDuckGo, the No. 4 U.S. search engine, which I confess I’d never heard of or forgotten about if I had. DuckDuckGo highlights its focus on privacy, making it a good fit for Apple.

It’s food for thought rather than market intelligence.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect last November when I traveled (through the airport in Wuhan) to Guangzhou for the Fortune Global Tech Forum, an event predicated on engagement between China and the West, particularly the U.S. What I found, at least in spirt, was business as usual. The Chinese and Western executives came to do business, as they’d been doing for years, despite the bellicosity coming from Washington and Beijing. Reading this riveting excerpt from the new book by Wall Street Journal reporters Bob Davis and Lingling Wei, I’m not so sure how long business as usual will last.

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My article in February about the state of San Francisco and its government prominently featured the downtrodden Tenderloin neighborhood. As Heather Knight, the city’s most influential newspaper columnist, describes in this sad account, conditions in the Tenderloin have deteriorated during the pandemic. In other words, they’ve gone from bad to horrific. And this is amid the backdrop of city officials having done a laudable job at keeping the overall city safe from Covid-19.

Adam Lashinsky

@adamlashinsky

adam.lashinsky@fortune.com

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.

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