Ripping Off The Bloody Band-Aid
It’s really not that hard to understand. Nor is it evil. Nor is it perfect. Nor is it the end of the world. It is what it is. And my bet is that, as usual, the outrage will be relatively short-lived.
I’m talking, of course, about the Maps situation in iOS 6, and the Google/Apple war of words over it.
Over the course of the past few weeks, we’ve seemingly heard all possible sides of the story. Apple blind-sided Google. No they didn’t. Apple was open to negotiating about maps, but Google wasn’t. No, it’s Apple who wasn’t. Apple was refusing to approve Google’s new Maps app. “Nope.” In fact, the app doesn’t even exist. Well, not yet.
Make no mistake, both Google and Apple (or people associated with those companies) are behind the scenes trying to convey their side of the story through strategic leaks. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. It’s over. There is no going back.
And it shouldn’t be surprising, from either side. The fact of the matter is that Apple and Google are now rivals of the highest degree. The Google/Microsoft and Apple/Microsoft rivalries now pale in comparison. Those are rivalries of generations past. All that matters now is mobile. And all that matters there is the iPhone and Android.
Imagine if when the new Yankee Stadium was being built, the Yankees had to play all their games in Fenway Park. That’s essentially the situation we have had here for the past few years.
What makes this even more intriguing is that Apple and Google did originally team up in the space. Apple needed Google’s services to get maps, email, video, and (of course) search off to a quick start on the iPhone. But that was a very different Google. There was no Android yet. Eric Schmidt was still Google’s CEO and was still on Apple’s Board.
Would Apple cut those same deals with the Google of today? Not a chance.
That’s really all you need to know about what we’re now seeing. YouTube is gone. Maps is gone. Email is being shoved to the background (and was always second-class — there’s still no native Gmail push email support). Search? We’ll see. But don’t be surprised…
What is surprising is that Apple was apparently open to extending the mapping relationship with Google in any form. Again, this is their main rival. And Apple was sending that rival massive amounts of data to improve their own product via hundreds of millions of iOS devices (and hundreds of thousands of apps which used Google Maps through the iOS SDK).
To me, that simply shows that Apple was taking this switch seriously right up until the very end. They knew that maps were (and are) a vital component of mobile. And they knew that Google had a seven-year head start. But ultimately, no compromise would work. How could it between these two? They could not be more at odds.
It simply became a question of when Apple would move away from Google Maps.
Apple chose to rip off the band-aid. In hindsight, it may have been the wrong time, but it’s hard to argue that it was the wrong choice.
It was a choice between a short, but intense burst of pain versus a prolonged dull pain — made worse by dried blood around the edges of the adhesive. You’re always told to rip off the band-aid.
A number of people have asked: why didn’t Apple just go with Google for another year while they built their own product in the background? In other words, why didn’t they slowly remove the band-aid?
Beyond the benefits of short, intense pain versus long, dull pain, it actually seems like they were trying that. Apple had already clearly been working on a solution in the background for some time. Apple Maps, even in its incomplete form, didn’t suddenly spring up from nowhere over the course of a few weeks this summer.
Apple ultimately made the call that it was ready to go. Perhaps a miscalculation, but it was undoubtedly a harder call than it seems.
To improve mapping data at scale, it’s vital to have information pouring in from as many points as possible. Thanks to the hundreds of millions of iOS devices they’ve sold, that’s exactly what Apple has at their disposal. But with the old Maps app, it was Google and not Apple improving their maps with that information. Every day this continued, it raised the barrier to entry that much higher.
And so: Riiiiiiippppp.
A bit more blood, but it will heal.