June 13, 2012

Has Apple Put Google in the Crosshairs?

Sunday evening, while flipping through the channels searching for something decent to watch, I came across what must have been the 1 millionth screening of War Games.  As you’d imagine, I paused to watch this 1983 gem of bad moviemaking, centered around nuclear war.  With Apple’s developers conference starting the next day, the movie reminded me of a quote from Steve Job’s biography where he said, “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

On Monday at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, the company made many announcements about new MacBooks, operating systems and expanded Siri capabilities and their version of a mobile payment system called Passbook.  Scott Forstall, the SVP for iPhone software, also ran through some features of the upcoming iOS 6, many of which seem to be targeted directly at Google and perhaps signaling the first shots in Steve Job’s aforementioned “war.”

Most significant to search — and Google — was the announcement of the new Maps app, Apple’s mapping product that will be part of the iOS 6 update this fall.  Apple’s press release about the product detailed features of the Maps app, including turn-by-turn navigation, real-time traffic information and local search information for businesses, including Yelp ratings and reviews.  Most iPhone users currently default to Google Maps for local search information, but this new app could completely change that by greatly diminishing Google’s current dominance of mobile search.

Furthermore, according to Apple, the Maps app will be available on iPhones, iPads and iPods.  The prediction by eMarketer that iPad users will grow to 53.2 million this year, and that by 2015 more than one-third of internet users will have such a device, makes the Apple announcement even more significant.

Apple is even shutting Google out of the loop when it comes to providing local data, including business and crowd-sourcing information.  According to an Apple copyright page, sources for information include:

  • TomTom
  • Acxiom
  • LeadDog
  • Localeze
  • Wave
  • Yelp

While the buzz surrounding these changes is based on statements and demos, it appears that the new Apple Maps app offers competition for the products Google has in place.  Furthermore, Maps paired with a smarter Siri signal that Apple is moving forcefully into the search business.  Considering Apple’s strong track record with consumer adoption, this could very well be the beginning of significant changes in search and trouble for Google.