The will-they-won’t-they uncertainty over Google bringing Maps to iOS 6 was clarified a bit on Tuesday night. Google is working on a Maps app to submit to Apple’s App Store, but there are some pretty big holdups that will make it slow going, according to the New York Times.
The Times report quotes people who are working on a Google Maps for iOS 6 app who confirm that the company “does intend to build” one. That clears up some confusion sewn earlier Tuesday by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt. He suggested in public comments that the ball was in Apple’s court when it comes to allowing such an app. The latest report clarifies that while Google has started to build the app. It’s going to take a while, however.
There are two big issues, one of which can be attributed to Apple’s timing, the other to earlier decisions made by Google itself:
Google’s contract with Apple to keep the maps app on the iPhone had more time remaining, and Google did not know that Apple had changed its mind until Apple said publicly in June that it would replace the app with its new maps app, according to two people briefed on the decision. Google is now navigating business relationships with Apple that grow more tricky by the day.
Another complication, according to a person with knowledge of Google Maps: Google would likely prefer to release a maps app that includes 3-D imagery so it is comparable to Apple’s. But Google has 3-D images in Google Earth, which is a separate app with a separate code base from Google Maps, so it would take some time to combine the two.
The first point, that Google was taken aback or surprised by Apple’s WWDC announcement in early June that it was building its own Maps app is hard to believe for a couple reasons.
- Apple showed its hand months before that with the launch of its new iPhoto for iOS app for iPad: Many people quickly noticed that Apple was using mapping data not sourced from Google.
- After a few reports in May hinted a big change was coming, Google on June 1 suddenly scheduled a press conference regarding its own Maps efforts. The actual announcements were vague and nonspecific, leading many to conclude Google was trying to preempt an Apple announcement it knew was coming.
- Then a few days later, but before WWDC, the Wall Street Journal leaked many of the discussions that had been taking place between Google and Apple executives for years; Apple was unhappy with Google withholding turn-by-turn directions, Google wanted its Latitude app included in iOS, Apple didn’t like Google’s “aggressive” data gathering from its own customers via its Maps app.
So, while Google may not have gotten the final notice until Apple SVP Scott Forstall announced Apple’s own Maps app onstage, there’s no way Google was completely shocked or caught off guard.
But the important thing is that Google is working on something. There are some obstacles it’s going to have to overcome, but it’s pretty much guaranteed to come out looking like the good guy here whenever it does come out with the app, thanks to the distaste many users already have for Apple’s solution. And from Google’s perspective, being able to upstage Apple on its own platform is probably pretty good payback for the Maps fiasco.