One of the most immediate effects of Steve Jobs' legacy on Apple is an animosity towards Google fueled by what Jobs saw as the outright copying of iOS by Android. Big tech companies will always be battling titans, but this is more. This is personal.
Still, the two companies have been bound by the mutual dependence since Google's services are bundled into iOS. And iMore reports that Google may make four times the ad revenue off of their use in iOS than they do from their own Android platform. Apple wants to change that. Apple has already begun intermediating search queries though Siri, effectively cutting Google out of the valuable identity information associated with those searches. Next up is that other large data components on iOS, maps.
It was widely reported yesterday that Apple will likely announce at its WWDC in June that the new version of the built-in maps app in iOS6 will not be fed by Google maps. Instead, Apple has developed its own, in-house 3-D mapping database, based on the acquisition of three mapping software companies between 2009 and 2011, Placebase, C3 Technologies, and Poly9. The stunning 3D image above is from C3, which, according to the company, uses "previously classified image processing technology… automated software and advanced algorithms… to rapidly assemble extremely precise 3D models, and seamlessly integrate them with traditional 2D maps, satellite images, street level photography and user generated images." The video below shows a flyover of Oslo using C3′s technology.
So if this report is true, Apple will have a new maps app with much more highly-detailed imagery than Google, collected through military-style reconnaissance without the (ahem) gathering of any personal information. It is a good bet that Apple will finesse the transitions between the different map modes far better than Google's wonky shift from "map view" to "street view." What could go wrong? Although Apple now owns the source and can engineer accordingly, the new app likely runs more image data through the pipe, so performance on mobile devices—where it's most critical—is going to be an issue. Apple may have to build in detection of the processor speed of the requesting iOS device and send a thinner stream to older iPhones than to the new quad-core iPads.
There is obviously an interesting business story here about how Apple and other tech companies are trying to chip away at Google's dominance of web services. But even more interesting, to me, is the end-user's story. The bloody competition between Apple and Google is leading Apple to create more innovative user experiences for its customers, and that is a good thing. An operating system is just a container for content, and recreating content is much more difficult than just knocking off its container. By creating a new source for the content of maps on iOS, Apple is making their platform more distinct from Android, as if to say, "You can only copy so much." Although Apple is always improving user experience, this particular effort might have not happened had Steve Jobs not threatened to go "thermonuclear."