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6/5/2012
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Apple To Drop Google Maps From iOS

Apple will oust Google's mapping service from the iPhone and iPad, say Apple employees, in a move that could further strain the relationship between the two companies.

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Apple plans to cease relying on Google Maps, and instead use its own mapping software on the iPhone and iPad, according to Apple employees who spoke to The Wall Street Journal. They say the company is set to kick Google Maps out of iOS and introduce a brand new mapping and navigation service run by Apple. The change has been in the works for some time.

Google Maps has been a part of iOS since day one. It's been available on every version of the iPhone and iPad, and is one of the core apps preinstalled with the operating system. The original agreement between Apple and Google gave Apple's device a solid mapping experience and gave Google location data, search history, and ad revenue.

The relationship between the two companies has soured, however, with the success of Google's competing smartphone platform, Android. Apple was unhappy that Google often gave the Android version of Google Maps better features, such as Street View, before it offered them to the iPhone and iPad.

The Journal's sources suggested that Apple has been working for years to create its own mapping software and service. It has quietly purchased several map-related companies, such as Placebase and Poly9, and the new mapping service will likely include zoomable 3-D features.

Is this a big deal? Well, it could be.

For starters, Google will immediately lose some ad revenue and could eventually lose the ability to sell location-based ads to retailers. Google sells these ads by mating location data with search data. Mobile ads based on map data and search add up to about $625 million in annual revenue. That's not a small chunk of change. But ad dollars are not the real reason Apple is preparing to make this change.

[ What's on Apple's horizon? Read Apple's Tim Cook Talks Siri, Steve, And Competition. ]

Instead, Apple wants more control over a vital tool on its device. Since Google's mobile platform has surpassed Apple's in the smartphone market, Apple wants a better way to differentiate its product from Google's. As it stands, 90% of iPhone owners use Google Maps on their device. If Apple can offer a better service that has unique features, perhaps it will have an easier time selling iPhones and scoring interest from developers.

Apple wants developers to bake its yet-to-be-launched mapping service into their apps to make them more interactive. Adding 3-D elements to the software wouldn't hurt, either, especially in large cities where having a perspective on the size and shape of buildings can aid navigation.

When's this big change-a-roo taking place? Apple is expected to show off its new mapping service at its Worldwide Developers Conference, which takes place in San Francisco June 11-15. The company is delivering a keynote address, which is often used to highlight new products, at 1 p.m. on June 11. The software itself likely won't become available until iOS 6 launches later this year.

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