The Apple/Google war rages on; manifests itself in Maps

Summary:Can Apple release its own maps app that has more features than Google Maps? Or is it just using maps as a pawn in its jihad against Android?

iPhoto for iOS uses OpenStreetMap data, instead of Google - Jason O'Grady

Some things have started to change since the passing of Steve Jobs (witness the Apple dividend) but others not only remain the same, they rage on and even accelerate. Like the holy war between Apple and Google.

Jobs was known to have a chip on his shoulder about Android, claiming that Google unceremoniously stole it from Apple. Biographer Walter Isaacson had this doozy of a quote in Steve Jobs:

I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.

Some things never change.

Google developed an amazing Navigation app for Android and it's free. But it's not available on iOS because Google's loathe to give consumers any incentive to buy an iOS device. Google, after all, wants you to purchase an Android device. And it's not going to put one of its defining apps (like Navigation) on iOS any time soon.

Take that, iPhone!

Android Navigation app for Android - Jason O'Grady

But there's no love lost by Apple either.

In March Apple began using OpenStreetMap data in iPhoto for iOS -- where Google map data would be the logical choice. Google's map data is richer, it includes satellite, terrain and street view imagery, live traffic and information about practically every local business in the universe (complete with phone numbers and reviews).

(You can compare the quality of Apple's, Google's and OSM's map data on this mashup site).

So why would Apple switch to obviously inferior map data in its products instead of using Google's?

One word. Spite.

Just like Google's loathe to release its amazing Navigation app on iOS, Apple's loathe to pay Google to use its map data on iOS. (It's unclear if Apple actually pays Google any cash for its map data, but the location data and queries are highly valuable and Google could probably find a way to make money from it, if it isn't doing so already).

Apple was just testing the water with iPhoto. A spate of rumors over the weekend suggest that Apple is dropping Google as the data provider in its stock Maps app, which installed by default on the home screen of millions of iPhones, iPods and iPads. It would follow similar defections by Wikipedia and foursquare.

Take that Android!

According to the rumors, Apple is going to replace the Google with OpenStreetMap in the version of Maps that ships with iOS 6 -- rumored to make its debut next month at WWDC. But instead of being inferior, rumors suggest that the new Apple offering could one-up Google Maps.

Apple has made several mapping acquisitions since 2009, including Placebase, Poly9, and C3 Technologies and rumors suggest that its been spending the last few years combining them into a super-secret Google-Maps killer. 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman thinks that the result could be a stunning new iOS app that includes 3D renderings of cities and a "much cleaner, faster, and more reliable experience."

I'm fine with change for the better, but I'm not fine with Apple releasing an inferior mapping product because it's in a stupid holy war with Google. Maps is too important an app for Apple to use as a pawn in its game with Google. I use an iPhone because it's better than the others offerings out there, but it's a close race. If Apple takes a step backwards and dumbs down Maps, I won't hesitate to defect to Android, and I suspect that I won't be the only one.

Google Maps has quite a compelling feature set, will Apple be able to compete?

Topics: Apple, Google

About

Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

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