Will iPhone ditch Google Maps?

| November 29, 2009

There’s some buzz this Thanksgiving weekend, mostly due to a new Apple job posting for an iPhone Software Engineer to help “take Maps to the next level”:

The iPhone has revolutionized the mobile industry and has changed people’s lives and we want to continue to do so. We want to take Maps to the next level, rethink how users use Maps and change the way people find things. We want to do this in a seamless, highly interactive and enjoyable way. We’ve only just started.

Maps has been a mainstay on the iPhone since its inception. Just when scores of us (myself included) were bemoaning the lack of Google Maps Navigation — the one Android users get to play with — this comes at us like a zinger. Forget not having a full-featured Google Maps app accompanied with a powerhouse navigation program — now we’re looking at having GMaps stripped completely from us? At the risk of sounding un-ladylike, but what the h…?

Okay, my personal outburst aside, the facts are these: Relations between Apple and Google have been strained for quite a while. Tech journos and geeks knew something big was about to happen when Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, stepped down from Apple’s Board. That something big turned out to be an onslaught of Androids marching into the stadium, and a direct offensive aimed at Apple/iPhone via Verizon/Droid commercials. (There’s also been some craziness with the FCC and the “approved, then yanked, then rejected, then recanted rejection-come-lengthy review” process for apps like Google Voice in the App Store.)

Android devices, including the Droid, Cliq, Hero, Behold II, etc… may not yet have the marketshare the iPhone does in the US, but its “mindshare” is gaining, due in part to those infamous (and effective) Verizon/AT&T map commercials. AT&T tried to respond, not just with litigation, but also with commercials featuring the cute, but hapless Luke Wilson defending Big Blue’s coverage. (Actually, the recent round of iPhone commercials underscoring the handset’s ability to use voice and data simultaneously seems way more effective — and classy. No one wants to see a company like AT&T get defensive.)

Is Apple’s desire to strip GMaps from the iPhone a retaliatory strike? Could be. But the business dealings behind the scenes might factor into this as well. As if it needed to rub salt in the wounds, Google acquired mobile ad company Admob, despite Apple’s bidding on the same company. Apple then bought a mapping company called PlaceBase, and its CEO and CTO joined the GEO Team at Cupertino.

So that brings us pretty much up to date, and offers context for this recent development. If there is a new Maps app in store for us, developing it will be quite the challenge, even for Apple. And as just one user among many, I’m praying that the change serves us — and not just the collective, corporate ego.

Via: FoneArena, MacRumors