Is Google’s New Maps App Actually a Big Triumph for Apple?

Last September when Apple ditched its Google Maps iPhone app and replaced it with its amazingly inept home-built Maps app, the move was so roundly denounced as a step backward and a weakening of the iPhone environment that chief executive Tim Cook had to release a public apology. No one could wait for Google to release its own Google Maps app to replace the Apple-built one Apple had cast aside.

Now that Google has done so, the general reaction is that, as The New York Times put it, “The return of a Google-powered maps application to the iPhone may make it easier for Apple’s customers to find their way. But it will not relieve Apple of the pressure to bring its own maps service up to snuff.”

However, Apple may have in fact just gotten all it ever really wanted or needed. At least that’s the thinking of Matt Yglesias at Slate. He writes that “I haven’t had time to play around with it properly, but I hope people will understand that if it’s as good as it sounds that’s really a vindication of Apple’s business strategy in launching its own Maps product.”
He points out that the problem with the old iPhone Google maps
wasn’t that it wasn’t as good as the new Maps. The problem is that it was distinctly inferior to Google Maps for Android. And that wasn’t a coincidence. Google is happy to make apps and provide online services for iOS users, but they’d rather have everyone use Android for their mobile purpose .. . .
But while Google wants to promote Android, Google also doesn’t want to lose the vast customer base that is iPhone and iPad map users. So they’ve responded by writing a Google Maps program that’s much better than the old Google Maps—one that feature vector graphics and spoken directions and Google’s superior mapping data.
In other words, Apple had been stuck with a second-rate Google Maps app while Android had a far better one.

Apple couldn’t possibly build its own app anywhere near as good without taking years to do so. But it could put out an inferior one, and that inferior one could pressure Google into giving iPhone users all the bells and whistles Android users always had.

So now Android loses one of its few marked advantages over iPhone. Score one, a big one, for Apple.


Article: Forbes 17.12.12

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