The Apple/Google divorce continues to stay in media limelight, as it turns out that Apple silently bought Placebase, a mapping service company, back in July 2009. History is the proof that Apple seldom buys companies it’s not going to use. So that translates as, Apple is going to make their own maps and kick out Google Maps. While I am a strong believer in the inevitability of Apple/Google evolving into ‘Frienemies’ (friendly-enemies) in the months ahead, I think this is hopefully more a case of Apple adding geo-locative DNA to their gene pool and continuing their innovation around the Maps app, which while powered by Google Maps under the hood, is nonetheless developed by Apple in terms of look, feel and supported workflows.
Seth Weintraub at ComputerWorld, who discovered this secret turn of events, points to a post on GigaOm last year detailing the awesomeness of PlaceBase vs. Google Maps – mainly, customization and tons of ways to layer multiple kinds of data sets onto maps, with an API that makes it easy to layer on those data sets.
So probably Apple wants these kind of intensive, custom geo-location mapping powers for the iPhone (and other stuff), or maybe Apple just wants to roll its own maps, so it does not have to depend on Google anymore. Even if Google’s tiles stick around in the iPhone Maps app for a while, Apple’s definitely doing something with their new toy.
I think Apple probably wants to free itself from depending on Google for its maps on the iPhone and iPod touch devices. Incidentally, Apple also currently uses Google Maps in iPhoto in the Places feature. According many technology experts this could actually prove to be a very smart move on the part of Apple to move one more inch away from Google and loosen the dependency. But, I think it has sufficient reasons to backfire as well!
Today it is map, what else tomorrow? Mail? Calendar? Unfortunately for Apple, Google is way ahead in terms of technology when it comes to apps like Google Maps. And for those users who depend heavily on the time-tested reliable Google data and services, it would leave them with no choice but to reject iPhone and adopt other devices that are happy to interpolate with Google service.
Bottom line, users will keep using the big boys maps and Apple knows this for sure. Google Maps usage is bound to soar with the many Android‘s that keep coming to the market – and Bing maps usage is also going to soar on Windows Mobile. Yes, the Windows phones are dogs right now, but with Zune software likely coming to the platform in Win Mobile 7 and Microsoft already showing great capability with Live local applications and further investment in Bing Maps, things can change pretty fast. So Apple will have to choose whether to incorporate their competitor’s maps that their users love, or try to sway millions of their iSheep that PlaceBase is better than Google Maps.