The Real Reason Apple Turned Away From Google Maps
Sep 29th 2012 10:02AM
Updated Sep 29th 2012 10:04AM
In recent years, tech giants Apple (NAS: AAPL) and Google (NAS: GOOG) have had something of a falling out, you might say. Actually, one might even go as far as to call it a "thermonuclear war" if one was so inclined, despite some remaining partnerships between the two.
Of course, much of the tension can be embodied by Apple's decision to ditch Google Maps in iOS 6 in favor of its own in-house, heavily criticized service. The Verge reports that Apple's map contract with Google was still good for another year before it was up for renewal, so there wasn't really any time pressure on the decision for the Mac maker to become a map maker.
So why jump the gun when Apple Maps clearly wasn't ready for prime time?
On the turning away
According to All Things D, turning away from Google Maps was centered on one particular point of contention: turn-by-turn driving directions. The search giant had built this functionality directly into Android's maps years ago, which has been viewed as a distinct competitive advantage.
Up until now, iOS users were relegated to an overview list of directions that they needed to manually push a button to progress through, an obvious distraction while driving. Meanwhile, Android users could sit back, relax, and let their phone tell them when and where to turn.
Apple was reportedly very adamant that it wanted this feature and was still using Google's backend data for its first-party maps app. With mapping becoming a mainstay use case for smartphones, Apple pressured Big G into giving up the driving-direction data, which the search giant wasn't all too keen on, since it had spent years and lots of dollars building up its direction database.
The two tried to hammer out acceptable terms but continued to disagree over certain things like branding or the inclusion of Google Latitude, a friend location service that competes with Apple's Find My Friends app.
A momentary lapse of reason
It's at that point that things fell apart and Apple decided to launch the mapping service it had been building over the years, utilizing at least three different acquisitions of map-related technology companies. Obviously looking in hindsight, perhaps this was a rash decision considering the sheer amount of backlash that's been unleashed in Cupertino's general direction.
Although it's not as if Google benefited from being dropped, even though it's surely enjoying Apple's misfortune to an extent. After all, the net result was that it did suddenly lose 100 million mobile-device users in a matter of days, since Apple announced that many devices had been updated to iOS 6. Sure, iOS 6 users can still use Google Maps via a browser, but that's an extra step for a poor experience; most will stick with Apple's default.
Third-party data partners such as Yelp (NAS: YELP) and TomTom (NASDAQOTH: TMOAF.PK), among others, have certainly benefited by seeing their data directly integrated. Yelp had already been providing reviews through Apple's Siri assistant and now has expanded that role for business listings and reviews within its maps.
Learning to fly
Apple thought its mapping service was more fully baked than it turned out to be. I'm reminded of the famous iPhone 4 "Antennagate" debacle, a situation that was hard to avoid without extensive real-world testing outside labs (not including the engineer who lost a prototype at a bar). Or Siri, which is already the subject of a false-advertising class action lawsuit because of its underwhelming performance. Releasing Maps into the wild into the hands of millions of users all over the world was bound to uncover hidden corners of the globe that Apple's engineers overlooked.
Much like any of these past fiascos, the high-profile missteps are unlikely to have any measurable impact on sales. Tim Cook summed up the loyalty of Apple consumers this year at D10, recalling when he made the decision to join the company:
Apple was the only technology company that I knew of, including the one I was currently at, that when a customer got mad at a company, they'd continue to buy. If people got mad at Compaq, they'd buy Dell. If you were mad at Dell, you'd buy IBM. But an Apple customer was a unique breed; there's this emotion that you just don't see in technology in general.
Source: All Things D.
So while Apple takes off the training wheels and learns the hard way how to operate a mapping service, people will still keep buying iPhones.
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The article The Real Reason Apple Turned Away From Google Maps originally appeared on Fool.com.Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, IBM, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and Google, creating a synthetic long position in IBM, and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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