Apple’s iOS 6 is now out, and if you've read iMore's detailed iOS 6 review you've already seen people complaining about the new Maps app. Whether it be incorrect data or simply a slew of features that are missing compared to the old, Google-powered Maps app.
iMore has written plenty about how iOS 6 is more about Apple than new user features, which do include deeper Facebook integration, panoramic photos and shared photo streaming. But most industry pundits agree that the big changes Apple made signify a move away from Google and towards even more of a complete hardware, software and services ecosystem.
At least that’s the idea. But the consumer outcry due to a bug-ridden maps app has people wondering if Apple has taken the idea of removing Google’s hooks to such an extreme that it compromises the user experience. Has Apple lost one of its core values?
We’ve seen Apple make mistakes before. MobileMe was a disaster at first, and it eventually improved. Then we all witnessed the Antennagate fiasco, which was yet another bad news story that resulted in a temporary assault of negative headlines. Of course it all blew over, and none of it had any real, lasting effect on Apple.
How will this play out? A few customers are bound to be upset. But I don’t think it will last. Before too long I expect Google will have an approved maps app in the App Store, and customers will get back the choice they want. Some people suggest that Apple will delay the approval of Google Maps. I don’t see it happening. Apple knows this is a longer term battle, and they want to kill the negative press fast. If you’re Apple, the answer is to give people choice, and then to improve your own product such that, in time, people don’t bother installing your competitor’s app anymore.
I think it’s a smart strategy. Sure, Apple was a bit premature in launching its own mapping app. But I doubt we’ll be talking about this little snafu in a couple of months - especially considering Google may have already submitted an iOS mapping app to the App Store. But if Apple can iron out the wrinkles, people will stick with the easier approach of using the built-in app. Then, after a few years, Apple will have significant control over local search data.
Google makes pretty much all their profits from Adwords today. And those profits come primarily from desktop and laptop use - not mobile. Yet most industry observers agree that mobile advertising is eventually going to eclipse ad revenue from desktop users. It will be more location-aware and intelligent.
It is in Apple’s best interests (and those of shareholders) for Apple to control as much user data as possible in order to monetize it through advertising. From that perspective, Google is a dangerous competitor with far more experience. As an Adwords advertiser, I can attest to the quality, depth and sophistication of Google’s advertising system.
Google already has complete control over the ability to advertise within Android, so why should Apple help them out (and sacrifice their own potential profitability) by continuing to hand them such important data, coming from iOS users? The answer is obvious. They shouldn’t.
I’m both an Apple and a Google shareholder. I’m not worried that desktop use of Google’s advertising platform will go away anytime soon. But what if it’s not Google who figures out how to truly monetize mobile? What if it ends up being Apple, Amazon, or Facebook? Then Google revenue flattens out or perhaps even shrinks, as more advertising dollars move to mobile.
The stakes are high in this game. Apple may have been early, risking some consumer upset. But they’re doing what is inevitably best for profitability in a highly competitive market.