Apple vs. Google
It’s pretty apparent that many of the “core” apps on the iPhone are not powered by Apple. Outside of the iPod app and the Phone app, most of the other high use apps (YouTube, Maps, Search) are powered by frenemy Google. Well that really hasn’t escaped Apple’s notice and they’re going to do something about it, probably starting with the Maps application. Last year, Apple purchased Placebase, a startup focusing on mapping. Today the rumormill has them buying Poly9, a company that makes a lightweight Earth viewing tool very similar to Google Earth. (The site is completely inaccessible right now, though how much of it is due to traffic and how much due to my own firewall issues, I’m not sure.)
Given that Poly9 provides a solid map and Placebase provides map-centric layering, it seems logical to extrapolate that Apple is building a multilayer mapping client of some sort, whether that be a browser-based solution or an app-based solution (most likely both). Maps is one of the most essential iPhone apps, one I personally rely on all the time. The lack of a free turn-by-turn nav solution on the iPhone is a big differentiator between Android and iOS, and Google Maps is still probably one of the most robust mapping solutions available on the web. Now that Apple has a location-aware advertising solution, they are going to want to supplant the Google-provided Maps data with their own version so that they can integrate iAds into Maps. I can definitely see Apple providing an iOS update that supplants Google data in the Maps application with Apple’s own home-bought solution. As of yet, Apple hasn’t bought a company to replace the YouTube app, but that app is pretty junky on the iPhone.
Heck before the iPhone 4 announcement, there was talk that Bing would replace Google as the search provider for iOS. It didn’t happen but I’m expecting that that’s going to happen next year. Or Apple is going to buy a search engine (say, Yahoo) and use their own search solution on iOS. At this point, given how big a platform iAds is expected to become, Apple needs to get as many tendrils into location-sensitive search as possible, and rolling their own, controlled, solutions is a critical necessity.
Google is realizing the potential loss and moving rapidly to address this. The new HTML5-based YouTube site and the new iPhone/mobile-optimized YouTube URL (m.youtube.com) are Google’s way of fighting back. I’ve pretty much switched over to that version as my primary access point to YouTube and the default app has been relegated to a folder buried in my last homescreen. Note that the new mobile-optimized site has a little reminder telling visitors how to add the site to the iPhone’s Home screens so that they appear as just another app. Google Voice has a similar feature, and Google Mail is evolving rapidly on the web to match feature parity to the default Mail app.