Get the Fainting Chair

Chris Ziegler, The Verge:

Apple’s decision to ship its own mapping system in the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 was made over a year before the company’s agreement to use Google Maps expired, according to two independent sources familiar with the matter.

So far, so good. I’ve heard the same thing.

The decision, made sometime before Apple’s WWDC event in June, sent Google scrambling to develop an iOS Google Maps app — an app which both sources say is still incomplete and currently not scheduled to ship for several months.

We’re supposed to believe that Google was surprised that Apple left the deal a year early? That I don’t buy. It implies that Google’s executives are either stupid, lying, or blindingly arrogant. I’ve never heard anyone suggest that Google executives are stupid. Ziegler continues:

For its part, Apple apparently felt that the older Google Maps-powered Maps in iOS were falling behind Android — particularly since they didn’t have access to turn-by-turn navigation, which Google has shipped on Android phones for several years.

I’d say where by “apparently felt” Ziegler meant “were well aware”.

The Wall Street Journal reported in June that Google also wanted more prominent branding and the ability to add features like Latitude, and executives at the search giant were unhappy with Apple’s renewal terms. But the existing deal between the two companies was still valid and didn’t have any additional requirements, according to our sources — Apple decided to simply end it and ship the new maps with turn-by-turn.

So Apple’s options were:

  1. Continue for one more year with iOS Maps as it was — no turn-by-turn directions, no vector-based map tiles — and thus go for another year at significant feature disadvantage to all other major phones on the market, and then face the same decision one year from now.

  2. Work out a new deal with Google, granting Google more prominent branding and more (and more personally identifying — that’s what Latitude is all about) location data from iOS users in exchange for modern features like turn-by-turn and vector map tiles. More Google branding, less user privacy.

  3. Cut the cord with Google now and go ahead with Apple’s own mapping services — which have been in development for years, with several prominent acquisitions of mapping technology companies — so that they can add turn-by-turn directions, greatly improve the aesthetics of the map graphics, use vector map tiles, add the visually impressive Flyover mode, and, most importantly, take control of their own destiny.

We’re supposed to believe Google was surprised that Apple chose #3? Ask yourself this: Were you surprised Apple chose #3? This option came with a now-well-known price: the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the underlying cartographic data. But all three of those options came with a heavy price. #1 meant iOS Maps would spend an entire year falling further behind all of Apple’s competitors. #2 would grant Google — now Apple’s archrival — more branding, more control, and more access to user data on Apple’s platform.

But surprised is exactly what Google apparently wants us to believe they were. Nick Wingfield and Claire Cain Miller of The New York Times report the same story, citing what must be sources within Google:

Google is developing a maps application for iPhone and iPad that it is seeking to finish by the end of the year, according to people involved with the effort who declined to be named because of the nature of their work. There has been widespread speculation about whether and when Google would release a maps application for Apple devices since Apple released a new version of its iOS operating system with an Apple-made maps service.

One reason that it will take Google some time to build the iPhone app: it expected the app with Google’s maps to remain on the iPhone for some time, based on the contract between the two companies, and was caught off guard when Apple decided to build a new application to replace the old one.

Everyone else in the tech world expected Apple to release its own mapping service for three years, but Google, the one company that stood to lose the most, did not? OK, sure. If you believe that, I have a melted bridge to sell you.1

  1. The other scenario, I suppose: that Google is so out-of-touch that it truly did not see how unappealing options #1 and especially #2 would be to Apple. ↩︎