Apple takes Maps to the precipice

Apple's feud with Google has come to an ugly standoff. It's holding customers hostage and won't allow them to use the Google Maps app reportedly submitted to the App Store. Time to call in a negotiator.

Apple takes Maps to the precipice - Jason O'Grady

Apple made a radical decision in iOS 6: and it chose form over function . It booted Google Maps in favor of a homebrew Maps app in iOS 6 and the results are pretty ugly. There are literally dozens of websites that demonstrate the fiasco that is iOS 6 Maps, but this tumblr pretty will sums up the issue.

Apple has turned its Maps app for iOS 6 into a political football. By punting Google's map data Apple is putting its own interests before those of its customers. iOS 6 snubs Google's clearly superior Maps product for its own inferior one in what appears to be retaliation for Android's perceived infringement on iOS. (Apple did the same thing with its YouTube app, which it failed to upgrade since its release in 2007, then booted completely in iOS 6.)

Apple is at a crossroads. If it unneccessarily delays the approval of Google Maps for iOS 6 (which Google is rumored to have submitted to the App Store) it will be sending a clear message to its customers that it's no longer interesting in providing them with the best possible user experience. It will be saying that it's more concerned with punishing a competitor for a perceived wrongdoing -- at the expense of its customers.

Bad form.

If Apple has an issue with Google/Android it needs to settle it in a court of law (like it did with Samsung) and not use its customers as pawns in its petty turf war. We're customers damn it, let us decide which Maps application works best for our needs. Both Apple and Google should innovated like hell in their Maps apps and let iPhone users vote with their feet as to which one is best. 

I'm a little scared though. Apple has a nasty track record with its App Store approval process. 9to5Mac notes that Apple rejected the official Google Voice app in 2009 and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission launched a probe. Apple was eventually cleared, but it took over a year for Google Voice to get approved. Will it do the same thing with Google Maps?

Apple couldn't possibly deny Google Maps into the App Store because it "duplicates a native service." Could it? There are numerous map apps in the App Store from companies like TomTom, GarminNavigon, MotionXMapQuest/AOL, AT&T and even Google Earth. But stranger things have happened.

Last month, Google was put into the App Store penalty box again when its Google Search app was updated with Google Now, a Siri competitor that allows users to ask it queries in natural language, like "How many people live in Cape Cod?" (There's a video of it in action here.) Still no word on that one.

Apple needs to do the right thing and approve Google Maps and let the market decide.

UPDATE: ZDNet's Larry Dignan reports that Google Chairman Eric Schmidt tells Reuters that the company has not submitted an iOS-version of Google Maps to Apple's App Store. "We have not done anything yet," he said.