Longtime Apple executive Eddy Cue defended the company’s agreement to keep Google as the default search engine on its smartphones and browsers during his closely watched testimony in the antitrust case against the Big Tech company on Tuesday.
Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of services and close confidant of CEO Tim Cook, was arguably the highest-profile witness so far in the trial, which has seen Google come under intense scrutiny over its huge payments to secure its default status.
Asset management firm Bernstein estimates Google could pay up to $19 billion a year to ensure the default status of Apple devices quoted by CNBC.
Cue told the court that Apple chose Google as its default search engine because it was by far the best option available for its devices.
“There was certainly no valid alternative that we would have gone to at the time,” Cue said in Washington, DC according to Bloomberg.
He added that because of the quality of Google’s product, Apple had no need to develop its own internal search engine.
Cue’s testimony bolstered a key defense from Google’s lawyers, who say consumers choose the company’s search engine because it is a high-quality service.
Justice Department lawyers said Google spends more than $10 billion on annual payments to various partners, including Apple and wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon, to gain dominance over online search.
The Apple bigwig also testified that a clause in his deal with Google states that Big Tech firms will “support and defend” the pact against legal threats.
Cue admitted that Google’s legal department pushed for the inclusion of the clause during contract renegotiations in 2016.
Google became the default search engine in Apple’s Safari browser in 2002 and has maintained that status ever since.
Cue said the deal was last extended in 2021, according to Bloomberg.
Much of Cue’s testimony was conducted in closed court because it involved confidential information related to the companies’ operations.
Google maintains a market share of around 90%, dwarfing all other competitors. Gabriel Weinberg, the founder of privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo, previously testified that Google has standard contracts with leading smartphone makers and wireless carriers
He is the second Apple executive to testify at the trial, following Apple’s artificial intelligence chief John Giannandrea’s appearance last week.
The antitrust trial, now in its third week, has been criticized for a lack of public transparency.
Last week, the Justice Department removed evidence it had posted on a public website after Google complained to the trial’s presiding judge, Amit Mehta.