I know, I know… Many of us in the Business world are sick of talking about, thinking about, and reviewing how good Apple is doing. My CEO says we need to be more like Apple, be the market leaders, innovators… like Steve Jobs. So it is to my pleasant surprise, when an opportunity comes up to talk about Apple’s mistakes, I don’t mind going into detail.
When the first iPhone premiered, it was not Apple’s strategy to make a GPS, nor an infinitely vast search engine. No, their goal was simple; make a phone that worked, was easy and intuitive to use, and make it look amazing. On every account Apple achieved what they set out to accomplish When they opened the app store, they revolutionized mobile computing. They changed the way software companies could make money on mobile. Instead of tiny banner adds at the bottom of your mobile web browser, you could buy an app that was worth the dollar. One software publisher was there first, Google. Google brought directions and navigation to Apple’s iPhone. Apple liked it, so it was installed by default. It was simple, easy to use, and it worked wonderfully.
At some point in the last few years, Apple has started to control the App space more stringently. They’ve frequently cited security or legal reasons as to why they would deny a software publisher’s right to sell on the online mobile store. Strangely, with the release of the latest phone (iPhone 5) and the newest operating system (iOS 6) they denied Google the ability to publish the Google Maps App (which was free to download and install), and instead released their own version of the Maps App which was installed by default.
In an uncharacteristic move by Apple. The Apple Maps App was downright awful. It was unpolished, difficult to use, often sporting inaccurate or inefficient directions to your destination. If you were so lucky to use it on the new iPhone 5, you have turn-by-turn navigation with a friendly voice who would sometimes get you lost. In fact, the navigation of the new app was so bad that caused a few incidents, even causing Australia to issue a Public Service Announcement to not obey Apple Maps directions as they could be dangerous.
This week, Apple effectively conceded defeat and allowed Google to once again publish Google Maps to the App Store. Within days, Google Maps became the most downloaded App in App Store history. Indicating both that Apple’s Map application was rubbish and that Google’s Map App did not represent a major threat to Apple’s primary business strategy.
So here’s the key question, if Google and Apple are direct competitors, why would they let Google bring their Map App back? If they’re not directly competing against each other, why ever remove Google Maps in the first place? It is possible that Apple thought they could push Google out, and gain market share. Instead, they upset a huge core of their customers who are now delighted that Apple brought back the real Maps App.