Year in review 2012: Apple boots Google services from iOS, suffers rare humiliation with Maps fiasco
The news: Before there was Android, Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) mobile presence was defined by core services devoted to search, advertising and maps--all hallmarks of the company's desktop empire. Google Maps was even baked into the first edition of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone, released in mid-2007, and it remained a fixture of the iOS platform for years to follow. But in 2012, the rivalry between Apple and Google reached the point of no return, and with the release of its iOS 6 update, Apple unceremoniously dumped preloaded Google services like Maps and YouTube, further escalating the battle by rolling out its homegrown Apple Maps platform.
Because mobile location and navigation services are such a critical source of revenue and consumer data, analysts say that Apple was essentially forced to oust Google Maps in favor of its own proprietary services. But in the short term, it appears Apple made a massive tactical error: So far, Apple Maps has been nothing short of a disaster. Immediately after iOS 6 launched, users identified dozens of inaccuracies including missing roads, misplaced landmarks and mislabeled businesses. With consumer fury mounting, Apple CEO Tim Cook even issued a public apology for the new Maps platform, admitting "We fell short" on meeting customer expectations and suggesting that consumers consider alternative mapping technologies while Apple strives to improve the service.
What it means: Both Apple and Google will stop at nothing to gain the upper hand in the battle for mobile dominance--and there will be casualties. The fallout from the Apple Maps debacle grew to include the exits of several high-ranking executives, most notably Scott Forstall, Apple's senior vice president of iOS software. Insiders say Forstall was forced out of Apple due to troubles with Maps and the Siri voice assistant, products that he oversaw, adding that tensions came to a head after he refused to sign Cook's letter of apology. Moving forward, Apple Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue will oversee the Maps platform's evolution. "We're putting all of our energy into making [Maps] right," Cook recently said. "And we have already had several software updates. We've got a huge plan to make it even better. It will get better and better over time."
In the meantime, Google Maps has returned to iOS--this time as a native application available for download from Apple's App Store. The app went live in mid-December; highlights include turn-by-turn voice navigation, a feature absent from the preinstalled iOS version because of multiple disputes between Google and Apple, as well as vector-based map images available in 2D or 3D views. Google Maps also integrates live traffic conditions, public transit data and details on more than 80 million businesses and points of interest, complete with Street View and Business Photos images, contact information, user ratings and reviews. Within hours of Google Maps for iOS's launch, it topped the App Store's Free Apps download chart, generating 10 million downloads in less than 48 hours and proving that while Apple may want no part of Google Maps, iOS device owners feel otherwise.
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