One of the largest strategy shifts that Apple has made in recent memory is its decision to gradually break ties with Google. Less than a decade ago, as Apple was beginning it’s meteoric rise in the technology world, the unspoken partnership between Apple and Google appeared to be the most powerful business partnership the world has seen. Two of the most innovative and ultimately successful tech businesses, working to create some of the best tech innovations of our time.
So what exactly happened to their relationship, and was it the best move for Apple?
When Google initially jumped on board with the iPhone, the two tech companies absolutely fell in love. The beautiful version of Google Maps that Apple software techs helped to engineer made Google that much more dominant in the search and mapping market. As the iPhone became more popular, the usage of Google Maps continued to rise with it. These two giants seemed to be perfect compliments: one creating hardware and a user experience, and the other supplying the complicated and comprehensive search and map back-end knowledge that was needed to make it all work. Everything was great, and both companies continued to rake in the customers and the cash.
Trouble on the horizon
The first trouble started to show when Google started producing some of its own apps that were too similar to the iPhone’s built in software. When Google was trying to get Google Voice and Google Latitude accepted into the Apple App Store, they were sorely rejected with rather weak reasons. Mainly, Apple felt that the services were too close to what was already included on the phone, and it would not approve anything that altered or changed that main user interface.
To some, this was justifiable as Apple had spent the time to precisely create its user interface and did not want other apps to “create user confusion” by duplicating some services. However, to Google and many people who were Google fans, this was the moment where Apple really showed its true colors and began to show that they were only interested in self-preservation. Until now, Google had been the darling of Apple, and to see apps created by them being rejected by Apple was basically like an awkward silence after a fight at the family dinner table. This didn’t ruin the relationship by any means, but this was where the first crack was shown.
The crack grows into a chasm
[pullquote]As time went on, Android became a bigger and bigger threat to Apple[/pullquote]
Disenchanted with Apple, it wasn’t long before Google began to produce products that were overlapping Apple’s current product offering. Most notably, the Android phone operating system was developed using many similar ideas to Apple. They built a user interface that was simple to use, straight forward for the consumer, but also much more open than Apple’s “closed garden” strategy. At first, Apple laughed this off as a search company creating something in a field they had no experience in. But as time went on, Android became a bigger and bigger threat to Apple , and it became the wedge between that really pushed them apart.
Steve Jobs took the invention of Android very personally, and claimed that Android had used many proprietary ideas and technologies that Apple had in order to copy their mobile system. What made matters worse for Jobs is that Microsoft had done something very similar in his early days at Apple. Microsoft made a decent operating system, and then instead of producing the hardware, simply licensed it out to whoever wanted to create a system for it. This led to Microsoft taking the overwhelming lead in the PC and software market, and all but crushing Apple to bankruptcy. Around this turbulent time, Jobs was effectively ousted from his own company, which many think created his unmatched drive for success in later years.
Google took the same approach originally used by Microsoft by opening Android platform to anyone that would like to create a smartphone for it. Even though iOS has the overwhelming lead this time around, the threat was clear as Android started to grow. Apple continued to deny random apps from Google, and it took small shots at Google such as implementing its own iOS advertising system. Before, Google Ads was the dominate advertising platform, but Apple decided it wanted a piece of the pie that was Google’s main earner. This was just another thing that made it personal, and led to the disintegration of their relationship.
Since 2009, Apple has been collecting mapping companies. From their first mapping investment, Placebase, to two 3D mapping companies called Poly9 and C3, Apple was building the technology they need to hit Google where it hurts. Google Maps drives a huge percentage of location-based search and advertising for the search giant. Additionally, more and more people are using their smartphones as opposed to the computer, so location-based search such as Google Maps is becoming ever more important to Google’s business strategy.
In June, Apple announced their plans for the new iOS operating system, iOS 6. While most features were incremental, one feature really stood out: Apple Maps. As the most glaring representation of the break between Google and Apple to date, people were curious about what Apple Maps would be like and how good it would be compared to Google Maps. Apple marketed it as a revolution in apps, and talked about how their 3D mapping technologies would change the way we view mobile maps.
[pullquote]When the iPhone 5 came out, and iOS 6 was released to the world, consumers quickly realized that Apple couldn’t deliver all that it had promised.[/pullquote]
When the iPhone 5 came out, and iOS 6 was released to the world, consumers quickly realized that Apple couldn’t deliver all that it had promised. What was worse was that people also saw that it couldn’t even compete with Google Maps. Some glaring mistakes such as missing towns and landmarks, and navigation that was not nearly as good as Google’s, made Apple Maps a complete flop. However, the split between Google and Apple was final. There was no contract to keep Google products in iOS, and even the native YouTube app had been taken away by Apple’s team. Google Maps was gone, and there was nothing consumers could do about it.
Here is one of many good spoofs spurred by the Apple Maps debacle:
Was this the right choice for Apple?
Time will tell whether this really was a wise choice for Apple. On one hand, it has made a clear divide between one of their main competitors in the smartphone market. On the other hand, it has spurred Google to no longer treat Apple as a friend and now treats it as a foe. For example, word has recently been spreading that Google is partnering with Samsung to create a 10-inch Android tablet that has a higher resolution screen than the iPad. That’s right, Samsung, the company that Apple is spent a lot of time and money suing for ripping off the designs of their products.
Partnerships like this will only continue as time goes on, and Apple will be forced farther and farther back into its walled garden. Separate from that, many users are fueled to switch over to Android because services like Google Maps and YouTube work so seamlessly on their devices. While something like keyboard selection was never the biggest point on someones shopping list, now with these glaring differences, there is a lot more incentive to simply make the jump out of the Apple ecosystem.
[pullquote]As of now, it seems like pushing Google away was the wrong choice for Apple.[/pullquote]
As of now, it seems like pushing Google away was the wrong choice for Apple. They are left in their corner having to come up with search and mapping technology that Google has largely perfected. Taking such huge efforts like this internally could be something that slows the company down drastically, and prevents them from truly innovating on further projects. Or, they could surprise everyone, and revise their maps to be the best out there and once again prove that they are the best at customer satisfaction. Only time will tell.
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons