For Apple and Google, breaking up is hard to do. Today’s release of Apple’s iOS 6 sees the the addition of many new features, as well as the removal of some notable code that has been with iOS for a long time: Apple’s YouTube app and the use of Google Map data within the Maps app.
Part of Apple’s ongoing extrication from its entanglement with Google, many people will be watching this move carefully to see what, if any, effect this will have on the companies’ bottom lines.
Based on early reports, it seems one part of the breakup will go pretty smoothly, while the other will be fraught with user peril.
Changing The Channel
The YouTube change is not likely to have too much effect on either company. Contrary to some rumors floating around the Internet this week, Apple isn’t banning YouTube from the new version of its mobile operating system; it’s just removing the built-in app it created to access Google’s popular video service on iOS devices.
You can still watch YouTube, of course. Google released its own YouTube app last week (though it’s ready only for iPhone, not iPad users). Of course, you can just use a Web browser on the iPhone or iPad to go to YouTube.com directly. In fact, on the iPad, that may even be a preferable solution. And there are plenty of free video search apps available that will plumb the depths of YouTube and other video sites, such as Vimeo.
So did Apple ditch YouTube in a fit of pique? Not necessarily. As CNET’s Casey Newton points out, YouTube is increasingly trying to move to a channel-based model. The new approach is very noticeable in the service’s new app layout, too. This channel alignment is a very good way to parse potential ad-clickers into more easily targeted demographics, so it’s no surprise that YouTube and its parent company Google are moving in that direction. By pulling its own YouTube app and promoting apps that are more video search oriented, Apple is quietly disrupting YouTube’s plans.
It should not make much of a difference in the long run – people will still be getting to YouTube, where the ads and eyeballs ultimately need to meet.
Dangerous Curves Ahead
The real bumps in the road may come with the introduction of Apple’s updated Maps app.
There are many new features getting introduced in the iOS 6 version of the Maps app, such as turn-by-turn navigation and a new “flyover” mode. But already many reviewers are missing the one thing that the new Maps doesn’t have: Google Maps data.
Instead, Apple’s mapping data is coming from vendors TomTom and Waze, with search data tied in to the Yelp location-based review service.
It’s expected that a new service, especially one replacing a highly robust geo-location dataset, is going to have some gaps in information. But it may be hard to explain that to phone users who suddenly can’t find businesses and other locations on their iPhones that were there before.
And the new dataset may not just be lacking a little – there could be big gaps. Waze CEO Noam Bardin distanced himself from the apparent coming storm when iOS hits the virtual shelves today, telling Business Insider, “Apple went out and partnered with the weakest player… They’re now coming out with the lowest, weakest data set and they’re competing against Google, which has the highest data set. What’s going to happen with the Apple maps, is that you’re literally not going to find things. When you do find them, they might be in the wrong place or position geographically. And if you do have it, the route to it may not be the optimal route.”
Businesses are noticing, too. Josh Carr of Rocky Mountain Mac Repair posted a detailed examination of the new Maps local search, and was not impressed with searches for his own business.
“All of the work I’ve put into our local recognition is completely gone because I focused so keenly on Google Places,” Carr wrote. “By limiting search to Yelp businesses, there were only two places returned for ‘iPhone Repair.’ They illegally use the trademarked term ‘iPhone’ in the name of their company on their Yelp record. One of the companies used a false name just so they had iPhone in the title.
“So, I need to create a false Yelp business and hope that Apple legal doesn’t come after me just to show up in Maps? Wow,” Carr added.
Why Maps Matter
Problems aside, this is an app that Apple will want to get right, and soon. Mapping is one of the most-utilized services for other apps on mobile devices. Geolocation is a key part of many apps, and users access maps and navigation on their devices often.
The change is a big deal for Google, too. A lot of ad money comes out of Google Maps, which is why Google spends billions getting that service up to date. Cutting Google out of the map equation is potentially a harsh blow to Google’s bottom line.
How harsh? Analytics firm comScore puts Apple’s share of the U.S. smartphone market at 33.4% as of the end of July. That’s a very large user group that will suddenly no longer be accessing Google Maps.
What’s not known: Will iOS users be patient with Apple if the Maps transition turns out to be as rough as predicted? Apple has a limited window of opportunity to lure more users to its Maps service. In June, Jeff Huber Google’s Senior VP, Commerce & Local wrote in a Google Plus comment, “We look forward to providing amazing Google Maps experiences on iOS.”
That points to a Google-developed app for Google Maps coming soon to iOS. Apple has that long to at least match what Google can offer.