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Apple Removes YouTube App From iOS 6

Apple says Google is working on a replacement app, but the app will have to be installed by iOS users.
Apple's slow-motion breakup with Google claimed another casualty Monday: The latest developer release of Apple's iOS 6 (Beta 4) no longer includes the YouTube app that has shipped with the iPhone since the device debuted in June 2007.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the company provided The Verge with the following statement: "Our license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended, customers can use YouTube in the Safari browser and Google is working on a new YouTube app to be on the App Store."

Asked to confirm the absence of the YouTube app from the latest iOS 6 beta, a Google spokesman in an email said only, "We are working with Apple to ensure we have the best possible YouTube experience for iOS users."

Thus, it's not immediately clear whether Apple opted not to renew its license or whether Google had some reason to conclude the arrangement that put the YouTube app on every iOS device.

[ Read Apple's War Against Google: Time For New Tactics. ]

In June, Apple revealed that the iOS Maps app--also present on the iPhone since 2007--would no longer obtain map data from Google. Apple appears to have planned that move since it acquired map company Placebase in July 2009, and map companies Poly9 and C3 Technologies in 2010 and 2011.

Apple's conflict with Google became apparent in August 2009 when Eric Schmidt, then CEO of Google, resigned from Apple's board, where he had served for three years. In early 2010, Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, then CEO, said he wanted to destroy Android because it was "a stolen product," according to biographer Walter Issacson.

Since then, Apple has waged a patent war against Google's Android hardware partners, with Microsoft and Oracle engaging in similar tactics. Apple's case against Samsung, the leading maker of Android hardware, is presently being heard in a courtroom in San Jose, Calif.

Without default placement of its app on iOS devices, Google's YouTube may see iOS visitor traffic decline when iOS 6 is released later this year. But for a site as popular as YouTube, it's not clear that this diminished exposure will have much of an impact, particularly once Google offers its own YouTube app through the App Store. In fact, Google and YouTube might end up better off, since the present YouTube app hasn't been refreshed for years, and a new app could be more compelling.

It's possible that Apple may intend to launch its own video service to compete with YouTube, but to date the company has shown no sign of doing so beyond its keen and ongoing interest in building up its data center capacity to support its iCloud service.

If Apple does aspire to compete with Google's hugely popular video-sharing site, the company might choose to use private APIs to give its video app a performance advantage. Apple does something similar with its Nitro JavaScript engine--it exempts Safari from its security rules, so its mobile browser runs JavaScript faster than competing iOS browsers.

However, iOS devices handle H.264 video decoding in hardware, so Google's forthcoming YouTube app should be able to handle video playback as effectively as any other video app, from Apple or any iOS app maker.