Apple's Focus on the Details

  • May 14, 2012
  • Scott

A new round of Apple rumors is circulating.  This time the focus is on iOS 6 and replacing Google Maps with Apple’s own implementation of maps:

More interesting to me is the implication of this switch. Let’s assume that alongside this change, Apple will also be replacing the default hooks in the iOS SDK that currently use Google Maps. This is a big deal for third party developers. While some choose to use other maps APIs (like Bing Maps, for example), the vast majority go with Google Maps because it’s baked right in and easy to hook up.

If that changes…

If the default SDK changes, I imagine mobile apps will start using Apple’s implementation by default.  The timing couldn’t be better, from an app developer’s point of view, as Google has begun charging high volume maps users on the web, and may begin charging for high volume mobile apps as well.  Of course, a change like this doesn’t happen overnight, it happens because of long-term planning and effort by Apple, and it reflects Apple’s general desire to own key pieces of technology in the long-term, combined with its willingness to rent or buy best-of-breed technology in the short-term.  Why the desire to own key pieces of technology?

  1. To make sure you can’t be easily held hostage by your suppliers (e.g. Google charging for Maps data)
  2. To give your firm the opportunity to innovate or advance the state-of-the-art in a direction that is beneficial to your products.

John Gruber’s take:

Here’s the thing. Apple’s homegrown mapping data has to be great.

Mapping is an essential phone feature. It’s one of those handful of features that almost everyone with an iPhone uses, and often relies upon. That’s why Apple has to do their own — they need to control essential technology.  I suspect Apple would be pushing to do their own maps even if their relationship with Google were still hunky-dory, as it was circa 2007. (Remember Eric Schmidt coming on stage during the iPhone introduction?) But as things actually stand today between Apple and Google, relying on Google for mapping services is simply untenable.

The long-term focus on details – and key technologies – is what now gives Apple the flexibility to deal with competition from what might have seemed like unlikely sources in 2007.  Any bets as to how well Apple is doing at designing other components for iOS products to reduce their dependence on Samsung?




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