Apple v Google - the mapping wars

Apple Senior VP of iPhone Software Scott Forstall demonstrates the new map application featured on iOS 6 during the keynote address during the 2012 Apple WWDC keynote address Apple's Scott Forstall shows off the new 3D map

Three Californian companies - Apple, Google and Facebook - now dominate the internet and are in a battle for supremacy over our online lives. And last night we saw another important episode in the power play between these three giants.

Tim Cook's opening keynote at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference had plenty to excite the real afficionados in the form of upgrades to the MacBook Air and Pro range of laptops, rather less to a wider world which pays attention to a new iPhone or iPad but not much else.

But what was significant to the shape of the industry was Apple's growing love affair with Facebook and the deepening cold war with Google. The announcements about iOS6, the latest version of the mobile operating system which is now more important to Apple than the Mac OS itself, showed Facebook being welcomed inside the tent while Google was pitched out.

When iOS6 comes along in the autumn, hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users will find that Facebook is heavily integrated into everything from sharing photos to contacts and calendar entries that mirror your social networking activity.

Meanwhile, when you go to the Maps app, you will no longer find the Google product that has been there since the iPhone's launch, but a new Apple version. After buying up a mapping business last year, the company is now promising users "Apple-designed cartography, turn-by-turn navigation and an amazing new Flyover view". But not, you will note, the Google Streetview capability that has until now been available on its mobile devices.

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As the internet goes mobile, there's a huge amount at stake for both companies, and maps are a key weapon in the battle to be top dog”

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Last week, in an apparent attempt to gets its retaliation in first, Google unveiled a series of upgrades to its Maps service, including 3D mapping much like that Flyover view promised by Apple.

Google and Apple used to be close allies, with the search firm's Eric Schmidt sitting on the Apple board. But, as was made clear in last year's biography of Steve Jobs, the iron entered the Apple founder's soul when Google launched its Android mobile operating system.

As the internet goes mobile, there's a huge amount at stake for both companies, and maps are a key weapon in the battle to be top dog. The nascent mobile advertising industry is heavily focussed on location based services, so owning the dominant mapping system could prove very lucrative.

The next move in this chess game is Google's. Presumably the firm will release a Google Maps app, complete with Streetview and 3D flyovers, for Apple's iOS 6 in the autumn. Unless Apple wants to take on the competition authorities, it will have to approve the app, and let users choose between the two mapping systems. But consumer inertia being what it is, most will probably stick with the default Apple option.

What next? Google replaced by Bing as the default search engine on iPhones and iPads? Tim Cook may seem mild-mannered compared to his predecessor as Apple CEO, but he's already shown he has the stomach for a fight.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    "As long as Apple allows Google to compete with it's own offering after iOS 6 is released, I think this is a great development for consumers."

    Except they won't - third party apps that perform the same function as Apple-supplied code are barred. For example - all the web browsers for iPhone are just skins around the Apple code that actually displays the page.

    Competion? Yeah right!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I tend to use OpenStreetMap. It is often more accurate than Google (and certainly more accurate and up-to-date than TomTom), features footpaths and (using OpenCycleMap) cycleways. I use the excellent Osmand+ Android app which enables you to download maps (of entire countries) for offline use, so no frustration when there isn't a mobile signal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I think my only concern with the Apple map is how much content will be offered in the UK. Apple often seem very US centric with their services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Interesting news at a time when many businesses are abandoning Google Maps for the open source equivalent. While the OS ones don't have a Street View equivalent, the level of detail is, I find, much higher than that of Google Maps. Your correspondent evergrowingbrain might like to try Osmand on his Android phone; if someone hadn't added his path to the map, he can do it himself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    @ 2. Dan

    Bing are coming along nicely; I agree. I've been using bing for about a year now and it just keeps getting better and better in terms of functionality and usability. I do find it odd when people speak of Google as though it's the only one offering those services -- I stopped using Google when it started to try and force me into using Google+ as my one stop shop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    #8 "When the Google Store has 400m registered accounts then Android will be the future and not a techy hobbie"
    I think you'll find that with almost 1m activations a day, that day is closer than you think!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Three companies...really???

    Apple has no Internet presence, beyond the users of iProducts. That might a a fair few, but its nothing compared to the number of Windows & Android users.

    I have no Apple products and there is not a single online product they provide which is useful to me.

    Google & MS in search & maps
    Android & iOS (and soon WP?) in mobile.
    Facebook & Google in social networking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Every morning I walk down a pathway Google don't believe exists. According to them I'm a mile further away from the station than I actually am.

    Hope Apple do better than that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    When the Google Store has 400m registered accounts then Android will be the future and not a techy hobbie.

    My thoughts go to TomTom and Garmin employees at this difficult time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    I think your article points to some very real dangers for users. What happens when one of these companies 'wins' the battle for users? Those users will in effect be hostages to a single company; their entire on-line lives will be the property of a single company. I cannot in anyway see how this will be good for those users. Once trapped, new pricing models will be hard to avoid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I think apple is winning over android. As it provides more of a controlled experience which they focus on. Apple had to ditch Google maps because much of our future services are going to be built on geo-location data and the internet is going to be much more integrated in to our daily lifes and journeys. So Apple needs to control this to make profits from local based marketing services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Are Google bothered about Apple, or vice versa? Probably not. Yes, maps are a huge business opportunity. In the future most mobile devices will be running a flavour of Android. It's simple maths, a heap of manufacturers making one kind of device over just one company making the only other real competition. It's all down to who provides the best user experience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    As long as Apple allows Google to compete with it's own offering after iOS 6 is released, I think this is a great development for consumers.

    Google Maps is a truly outstanding tool, but it's integration is not as deep on iOS as it is on Android; as an Apple customer I'm looking forward to comparing what both have to offer, come Autumn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    will users really forget all about streetview and use the default option? A maps app without streetview is a no go for me. I doubt we'll see apple branded streetview cars on the road any time soon either.

    Do we know anything about the kind of detail users in Europe can expect? Google have been improving their map detail and coverage for years, apple can't catchup in months.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I actually don't think Google are that bothered by this. I heard at a conference last week that Google spend $4 billion a year on their mapping engine including licences from third parties such as Ordnance Survey. I think it will be some time for Apple to catch up. I think the real interest should be Bing Maps, they are moving on leaps and bounds at the moment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I don't think Google are bothered. Apple are running to catch up on mapping, and Apple hardware is becoming a legacy platform: Android is the future..


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