Many things in life are uncertain, but here’s something you can take to the bank: Apple will allow users to download Google’s map app from the App Store. The date isn’t certain, but I expect it by the end of the year. In any case, a story in the Guardian that quoted unnamed sources at Google saying that Apple will block the app is almost certain to be wrong.
It’s no secret that Apple replaced Google Maps with Apple Maps in iOS 6 for competitive reasons. After all, tying advertising referrals to maps is a big business, and Apple wants its share of those dollars. It’s also true that Apple runs roughshod over developers wanting to place an app in the store, which is why people might believe the rumor.
No, Apple isn’t commenting publicly. But you don’t need an MBA to know that the story makes no sense, because CEO Tim Cook did something Steve Jobs would never have done: he not only apologized (in an open letter) for shipping a crummy, unfinished product, but he also steered customers to use products from competitors, including Google, Bing, MapQuest and Waze. (Read more about those alternatives here.) And don’t forget, Scott Forstall, the executive who was running Apple’s software operations was fired following the screw up, yet another sign of how seriously Cook takes this issue.
What’s more, Apple was subjected to something the company hasn’t experienced since it shipped the Newton: ridicule. (The image to the left is a good example of the bizarre mistakes made by Apple Maps.)
Leaving users out in the cold until Apple fixes its map application, a process that could take some time, would only subject the company to more anger and more terrible press. Apple shot itself in the foot by releasing that kludge; I simply don’t believe it wants to blow off its remaining toes.
As I said, it doesn’t take an MBA to figure this out, so why would the Guardian, a usually reliable news source, write such nonsense? Personally, I think the paper has been played by Google. The search giant wants to be sure it can put its map app on iTunes, so by leaking the rumor that Apple is being unreasonable, Google is exerting a good deal of pressure on Apple.
Having covered the tech industry for a couple of decades, I’ve seen this type of ploy before. PR folks know that reporters are always looking for scoops, and a story this juicy was probably too tempting for the Guardian to pass up. Alternatively, the Guardian could have sources who simply don’t know what they are talking about.
In any case, the story should not have been published without solid confirmation. But that’s the Guardian’s problem. For now, keep using those alternatives to Apple Maps and expect to find Google Maps on iTunes before too long. As a long-time journalist I hate to say it, but don’t believe everything you read in the papers — or on the Web.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.