Hugh Pickens writes "eWeek reports that the data Apple collects about users from its iPhone is so valuable that the company may build its own iPhone-centric search engine just to keep Google from gleaning insight from that data. 'The data generated on the iPhone OS platform must become an increasing priority for Apple and we believe the company has the resources to develop its own products in both maps and search in the next five years,' writes analyst Gene Munster. Google is currently the default search engine on the iPhone, but Google has increasingly encroached on Apple's mobile turf, offering the Android operating system and several mobile applications. As the search provider for the iPhone, Google sees what iPhone users are searching for, which can help it tailor software and services for its own mobile smartphones — a competitive advantage that has not gone unnoticed by Apple. Apple lacks the experience and engineering wherewithal to build a large, scalable search engine, but Munster says Apple could buy a search startup with a Web index, such as Cuil or Taptu, and use its index as the seed for its own search engine. 'Apple is in an inside position to tap into the current pent-up demand for better mobile search, and add a new competitive differentiation from other search providers and device makers,' adds IDC analyst Hadley Reynolds."