A noisy chorus of iPhone users cried foul when they downloaded iOS 6 last week only to find it was missing Google Maps, which was replaced by the sparse and buggy Apple Maps app. But those clamoring for Google's superior navigation product shouldn't hold their breath: Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said Tuesday that the company has no immediate plans to bring Google Maps to Apple's App Store. "It's their choice," the former Google chief told reporters in Tokyo, referring to Apple's divorce from Google Maps. "We think it would have been better if they kept ours, but what do I know?" The two tech companies were close partners when the original iPhone launched in 2007, but have grown apart with the advent of Google's Android platform — which Schmidt pointed out still has Google Maps (which even offers Street View underwater). "Take that Apple," he said, before quickly adding: "That was a joke by the way." Is Google smart to play hardball with Apple?
Withholding Google Maps is the wise thing to do: "Google is smart to drag its feet," says Shara Tibken at CNET. It may not be what frustrated iOS 6 users want to hear, but it "gives the company a clear advantage any consumer can easily understand." In letting the Apple Maps backlash simmer, Google is making it clear that it possesses a superior mapping product. The companies aren't just fighting over mapping apps; "they're fighting over consumers' hearts and minds — as tech executives love to say — and that's a battle neither can afford to lose."
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Google should strike while the iron's hot: Despite Schmidt's off-the-cuff remarks, says Casey Chan at Gizmodo, at least one report indicates that Google Maps will make it to the App Store by the end of the year. The reason for the delay is that Google wants to fold in Google Earth and 3D images to keep Google Maps on par with the one feature — 3D — that Apple Maps has going for it. "Let me tell ya, Googs, you don't need fancy 3D maps to be better than Apple Maps. Just get it in the App Store as quickly as you can and you would already be better."
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The break-up is actually a win for both companies: "Maps aren't just an app; maps are a platform," says Marcus Wohlsen at Wired. "To make money off of that platform, Apple needs its own." Apple might be doing its users a disservice, but splotchy map software alone won't convince 5 million new iPhone 5 owners to "recycle their new slabs of aluminum in favor of an Android device." Google's best bet to capitalize on those devout iFans is to submit an iOS version of Google Maps it can monetize. Google has "plenty else to sell besides smartphones," and an iPhone-friendly maps would give the "search and advertising giant one more way to guide even the most ardent iPhone users along a Google-defined path."
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