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 36.

    I wish I had a dollar for every time Rory Cellan-Jones used Apple and Wars in a headline.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    ohh and facebook has been heavily integrated in to Windows phone since launch, along with twitter, linkedin, etc so nothing new there, except Apple with make you think it is, along with Facetime (juat plane old video calling to normal non apple fanbios) over 3G WOW really Android and even windows phone 5 had this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    @Thekid I thought the same when I read 3 compaines dominate the internet, Apple really?! like you said beyond iProducts thay have very little presence online. The players that dominate are google, facebook and microsoft

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    10. TheKid

    Well, I'll give them Quicktime, and what they done with Dreamworks, but that was mostly Jobs.

    Actually, I'll take back Quicktime, as that was inferior to Flash (can you see why Apple hate them now?)

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    some things to consider about these two giants
    apple seem to be (from a totally objective POV) arrogant and acting like school yard bullies e.g let facebook in but not google. I work with both systems. OS and windows and see advantages in both, however, I tend to find apple users a bit smug and lofty, as if belonging to apple is to be better than everybody else. god help us if they do ever succeed

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.


    "the route from my house to the station is half a mile in real life, but google maps suggests I should go a mile out of my way"

    I think the real issue here is that you need a map to get to your local station! How are we expected to believe that someone who can't make a half mile journey out their front door without aid of a map can turn off the driving directions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    >>casually sexist delivery
    It wasn't sexist at all. There are children of both sexes. Good job he didn't mention any other minorities though...

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    I'll stick to Andorid and Google until Apple start using 'state of the art' hardware to match the over "iFlated" price tag. Now Apple software on an Andorid based phone would be something, the best of both worlds :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Your otherwise good point is entirely cancelled out by the casually sexist delivery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I used to have an Android phone and tablet up until a couple of days agos. I upgraded to the iPhone 4S and bought an iPad 3. After a few days use, my Apple products are far superior in build quality, usability, reliability and are rock solid, where both my Android devices were unreliable at times, especially in freezing/crashing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    @odysseus The TomTom mapping data comes from a company called Tele-Atlas - TomTom bought them out a few years ago for a billion euros i think. Still this data is not perfect - and only focusses on roads.

    I think the provider who focusses more on footpaths, cut through's and cycle routes will be best placed for the mobile market.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    @19 oliver9523

    quite sure - what I'm trying to say is that the route from my house to the station is half a mile in real life, but google maps suggests I should go a mile out of my way, because it doesn't understand the concept of an allyway...

    and no - it isn't set on driving directions either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I use street view at least once a day, for everything from getting parking restriction times, to getting the orientation houses that I find in an estate agents windows (to see if the garden is south facing).

    The Apple product will be inferior, but will make more money for Apple, so a good move for shareholders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    It appears at first sight that the OpenStreetMap data used by Apple is more than two years old. Part of OSM's benefit is the way it can be improved; OSM's growth over the last two years has been staggering, so why would Apple ignore the up-to-date data? Apple presumably want to hang their own advertising onto this app as a money earner, but out-of-date data will kill that stone dead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    "Apple's growing love affair with Facebook"

    I think that will go to their own undoing (Apple), as long as Zuckerberg is CEO of Facebook. Their own mapping however, is far behind Google's, yet I believe if they probably could have the benefit of taking it their own direction, and calling it "their invention" once more for the sake of all those dull Apple fans.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    @9. evergrowingbrain
    "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."

    Are you sure you're not getting confused with poor GPS reception or cell tower triangulation errors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    To answer many questions from below, Apple is actually sourcing the data externally, mostly from TomTom but also from OpenStreetMap and Yelp and many other providers. So data should be available world-wide and the employees of TomTom should still be sleeping comfortably.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    @15 OpenStreetMap is great, however Microsoft (Bing) habe invested heavily in it, also one of the founders of OSM is now a technical lead at Bing Maps.

    Streetview has been mentioned, but a lot of the Google data is outdated, Bing is also undertaking this same procedure at the moment, but the main problem is keeping it relevant and up to date - this is where i think Apple will fail.


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