A Partnership Fizzles

9/26/2012 8:57:14 AM

Why can’t Google and Apple play nice?

Among the various announcements made at the World Wide Developers Conference in June Apple's annual dog-and-pony show aimed at demonstrating new products and working with developers was a seemingly innocuous feature of iOS 6 that proved to be the latest salvo fired at internet search giant Google.

Description: Why can’t Google and Apple play nice?

Why can’t Google and Apple play nice?

Scott Forstall, the chief of Apple's proprietary mobile operating system, divulged a list of upgrades for the forthcoming iteration of iOS that included improvements to Siri, a deeper integration of Facebook's functionality and a host of other nifty software enhancements. Raising more than a few eyebrows was the mention of a brand new maps application, a sleeker and sexier version of Google Maps which has been standard on iPhones since the first generation in 2007. The reported feature-set includes Apple-esque design flairs and crowd-sourced traffic information along with upgraded graphics, turn-by-turn navigation and Siri integration ("Siri, is there a good place to eat around here?"). Apple stepped in and replaced the Google map functionality with one of its own, essentially eliminating another Google application. Given the usefulness and consumer dependence on mobile map applications, the move by Apple was seen as a particularly harsh blow to Google. But it most certainly was not the last.

The relationship between the undoubted champions of technology was not always this contentious. Back in 2006, the Chief Executive Officer of Google, Dr. Eric Schmidt, was appointed to the Board of Directors of Apple and the two companies enjoyed a solid working relationship. In the early summer of 2007, Steve Jobs proudly announced the pending release of his iPhone complete with Google applications. Phones were shipped already containing Google Maps and YouTube. Jobs went so far as to highlight Google's presence on his new mobile device stating, "iPhone delivers the best YouTube mobile experience by far." Over the ensuing years, however, the love-fest has chilled dramatically. Not too long after Jobs proudly pointed to the Google services in his technological masterpiece, Google proclaimed that they would be diving into the mobile business as well. In November of 2007, a mere five months after the launch of the original iPhone, the search-engine unveiled its plan for Android, an open-platform operating system for cellular devices.

The Linux based platform included an operating system, GUI and software that could, according to Google's Director of Mobile Platforms Andy Rubin, "... run a mobile phone, but without the proprietary obstacles that have hindered mobile innovation/7 The battle lines were drawn and Apple was forced to face the harsh reality that a business partner was about to become a bitter rival.

The association between the tech titans deteriorated rapidly over the ensuing years. Google's Android phones had such a similar look and feel as rival Apple that the Cupertino firm filed patent suits against numerous hand-set manufacturers —many of them members of the Open Handset Alliance, the corporate consortium responsible for the operating system—who were employing Android in their devices. In late 2009 at an Apple town meeting, Jobs tore apart his former corporate ally saying, "We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business. Moke no mistake: they won’t to kill the iPhone. We won't let them ...Don't be evil is o load of crap." Google chief Dr. Schmidt had already resigned from his Apple board seat, citing a conflict of interest as the two companies drifted further apart.

Jobs also accused the Mountain View Corporation of purposely trying to kill the iPhone, assuring those in attendance that "We won't let them." (Schmidt's response was cordial and mollifying, praising Jobs as "...the best CEO in the world today.")

Google seemed to know how to push Apple's buttons. Techs working on Android often accused Apple of limiting content and free speech, a result of Jobs' ban of controversial applications and intolerance of sexual content. They surmised that Steve's "fear and anger" were at the crux of his rigorous application acceptance process, one that even Google's popular Google Voice could not overcome in 2009 and was thus not offered as an iOS app. Soon after, other Google applications also failed the application process as Apple alluded to the fact that these proposed programs were disruptive to iPhone's functionality. Many industry wags nevertheless saw these slights as Apple's reaction to their former OEM "getting into bed" with its competition. If folks looked harshly on Jobs' vehement denouncements of Google's open-sourced efforts, seeming to demonize what appeared to be an almost altruistic effort to make programming for Android phones simple and accessible, they soon understood his panic as Android-run devices grew exponentially in a small amount of time and came to dominate the mobile market.

Description: Android-run devices grew exponentially in a small amount of time and came to dominate the mobile market

If a product demonstration from just a few days ago is any indication, whatever symmetry that had remained between Apple and Google may have just melted away. A beta of iOS 6 failed to include YouTube as a native app, something Apple had been doing since the launch of the original and Steve Jobs' exaltation of its inclusion. Both companies assure that there are no problems, reiterating that the license for its inclusion had expired and that an improved version would be offered through Apple's App Store. Despite assurances to the contrary, tech analysts contend that neglecting to include a YouTube app with every iPhone and iPad is tantamount to severing all ties with Google. Many also feel that the relationship between the two has grown so contentious as to resemble the great battles that Apple and Microsoft have had since the introduction of the Windows operating system. To add insult to injury, Apple will employ Microsoft's search engine Bing in its proprietary maps application, another shot at Google's core competency. As Android's dominance increases and devices like HTC's Nexus One, a Google smart phone, appear to mimic the best features from Apple's iOS, the shift in competition becomes clearer. Once bitter foes with a history of squabbling and one-upmanship, Apple and Microsoft now need to band together to defeat a common rival in Google. The battle lines have been drawn.

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