Many pundits are declaring the Apple’s new “Maps” application for iOS—which ditches Google’s mapping data for something developed in house—is a death knell for Google in the mobile mapping space.
On the contrary, it actually presents a golden opportunity for Google to gain traction.
Apple’s new mapping app looks great, with free turn-by-turn navigation (see right), and a cool “flyover” feature that delivers beautiful 3D shots of major metropolitan areas.
The problem is what the new app seems to lack. As noted by ReadWriteWeb’s Dan Frommer, the new Maps app does not appear to have public transit or walking directions, which are vital to those iPhone users in urban areas. It also does not appear to have “Street View,” which—while not as pretty as a 3D virtual flyover—is extremely useful when trying to locate a house or address you haven’t been to before.
In addition, we haven’t had a chance to see if Apple’s Maps are as accurate and clear as Google’s are. The early pictures look very promising, but until we get a hands-on, it will be hard to know for sure how it stacks up to Google’s mapping solution.
Why is this an opportunity for Google? Because now Google can have a Google Maps app to call its own on the iPhone and iPad.
Before, with Google Maps built into the default Maps app, Google had no need (or was contractually prohibited) from building its own, branded Maps app for iOS. With Apple dumping them, Google presumably now has free-reign to build its own Maps product, incorporating the features that Apple’s new Maps app may be lacking.
Best of all, any advertising or purchasing revenue from the app would go straight to Google’s coffers.
Apple may have a huge lead on Google in terms of mobile software, but not when it comes to mapping, which Google has owned for longer than any other major tech company. For example, Google Maps on Android already offers navigation, and the company announced plans to release its own 3D mapping feature later this year, likely around the same time Apple’s product launches. In addition, Apple will likely have a hard time denying a “Google Maps” app for iOS considering the pressure it is facing from antitrust regulators.
All of this leads to one conclusion: the mobile mapping wars are on, and while Apple has fired the first blow, it was hardly a knockout punch. Will Google dodge the attack and throw a retaliatory jab? Or will it crumble from the haymaker? We will find out soon.