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Google Maps vs. Apple Maps

Apple Maps Vs Google Maps In The War For Dominance

On June 11, 2012, Apple Inc announced the launch of their new mapping application as a part of the iOS6 in the Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. Apple’s announcement did not quite stir up the tech community as the development was pretty much along expected lines. Apple Maps, it was announced, would feature crowdsourced real time traffic information, voice guided turn-by-turn directions, and 3D maps – snazzy features quite befitting the Apple products. All the features of Apple Maps are to be integrated with SIRI. Apple seems to have tied up with the Dutch company TomTom for its mapping application. The Flyover feature of Apple Maps is probably the most anticipated as it promises a neat aerial view of the city, landmark, high-rise, and district.

The Mapping Wars

If the announcement was anticipated what is the buzz about? Instead of using Google Maps or an open source mapping platform such as OpenStreetMap, Apple decided to go ahead and build Apple Maps with the help of an in-house cartography team. Apple had acquired the online mapping company Poly9 and 3D mapping company C3 in 2010 and 2011 making the development possible. Google Maps has hitherto been an integral part of all Apple iPhones and iPads. Since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, Google Maps has been one of the key apps on the phone and was used for all location based services. In fact, Google Maps was a core app – one that could not be deleted by the iPhone and iPad user at will. The launch of Apple Maps has been viewed as Apple’s attempt to disassociate itself from Google, moving the rivalry of the two competitors, one notch up.

Surprisingly, Apple Maps is still in the Beta stage. In comparison with Google Maps, Apple Maps come across as clean but essentially lacking in much of the essential information. Many of the streets are yet to be named and directions yet to be plotted. Apple says they have added over 100 million business listings to their maps. Apple Maps need more work and we may be certain that Apple will be improving on all the features.

The one key feature that Apple Maps seems to have missed is an equivalent of Google Maps Street View. Also Apple users are likely to miss transit directions including those for metro services and bikers. Apple is most likely to include transit maps from the developers community in the days to come. Apple’s announcement seems to have been anticipated by Google. On June 6, 2012, days before the launch of Apple Maps, Google went on to announce the introduction of 3D views and work on offline mode – cool features that add amazing value to the map offerings.

A Bit of the Background

Apple and Google have been tied up in a rivalry vying for the attention of millions of smartphone users worldwide. The mapping wars are only a page in the story of the two tech giants. Steve Jobs, the founder and former CEO of Apple, went on to state in his biography that Android was a rip-off, an idea stolen from Apple’s iOS. So much so that Walter Isaacson, in his biography of Steve Jobs says that Steve went on record to make a strong statement – “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”

Apple and Google shared close ties prior to the launch of the Android system. Most of the Google products were core apps in iPhones and other Apple products. In fact Google search still forms the key search feature in all Apple devices. Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, was also a member of the Apple’s board. While the earliest iPhone was launched in early 2007, Google launched Android in November 2007 sparking off what would evolve into a clash of tech titans. While the Apple environment could at one time not be envisaged without Google and Google products, the former soon refused to feature a number of Google products at the App store. Google, always a believer in open ended functions allowing customization and adoption as part of the Android ecosystem, diverged in its philosophy from Apple. Apple, on the other hand, believes in controlling end-to-end user experience of its products. Google apps became less integrated and adaptable to Apple.

Studies show that in February 2012, Android has gained over 50% of the smartphone market share in the US and Apple’s share remains at about 30.2%. Worldwide, in the first three months of 2012, Android has commanded 59% smartphone market share and iOS has held 23% market share. But these numbers have not discouraged Apple nor prevented the company from going into litigation with Android phone manufacturers.Apple soon launched a series of lawsuits against Android developers such as HTC, Samsung, and Google-owned Motorola. While Samsung has been at the receiving end of most of Apple’s legal ire, others such as Motorola have also been fighting a prolonged litigation over infringement of patents and exploiting Apple’s reputation.Samsung had been banned from marketing its original tablet computer in Germany and Australia following these suits. Early in June 2012, Apple has again appealed to a Dusseldorf court to ban the sales of the modified Samsung Galaxy 10.1N tablet. Samsung has, in turn, sued Apple for the infringement of technology patents that it holds. In June 2012, Apple attempted to stall the launch of Samsung Galaxy SIII by filing to amend their injunction against Samsung. The attempted failed and Galaxy SIII is set to launch smoothly.

Clash Of The Titans

In this war of the tech giants, Apple has been careful avoid a repetition of history. Some of Apple’s earliest products were replicated by other companies. With Macintosh having suffered vis-à-vis Windows and Intel, Apple has now gone all out to prevent Android from subjecting the iPhone to a similar fate. Steve Jobs had taken Eric Schmidt’s presence on the Apple board while developing a similar OS for Google as a tactical betrayal. Eric resigned from the Apple board in 2009. With Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt having bequeathed their successors Tim Cook and Larry Page the same zeal and appetite for the fight, the future of the war is something tech watchers are looking out for.

With the rivalry expanding into other spheres it has become a matter of choosing sides. Apple announced that the iOS6 would have Facebook baked into the operating syatem, allowing iPhone user to update their Facebook status by simply talking into their phones. Other Facebook activities made convenient in the new iPhones and iPads include Liking apps and movies featured in the iTunes store. This has been looked at by many as major challenge to Google. Google Plus, Google’s indigenous social network is considered Facebook’s biggest competitor. Does sharing closer ties with the Google’s arc rival amount to snubbing the web search giant? Currently, Google Plus has over 170 million registered users (as of April 2012) and Facebook has over 800 million users.What does the future hold? Will Apple disassociate itself from Google completely? Will Apple be able to do away with Google, the marked leader with products such as GMail, YouTube, and Chrome OS? Has Google pitted Google Music against Apple’s iTunes? And most importantly, will Apple soon replace Google search with Bing? Bing has already tied up with Yelp and Apple over the business listings featured on Apple Maps. But will Apple tie up with another traditional rival, Microsoft (Bing is owned by Microsoft) in its anti-Google campaign? Only time will tell.

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