Apple’s keynote yesterday was remarkable as much for the new products on show as for the signals it sent out about how new CEO Tim Cook intends to keep shop. The press conference concluded with a new look Apple logo, a blend of the famous 1980s rainbow colour scheme and the modern Apple’s gradient monochrome.
The new iPad launch was also about giving Google, Apple’s close frenemy, the middle finger. We don’t need your competition, and we don’t need your services either, Tim Cook seemed to be saying. This war’s about to get personal, and for the first time, us customers are about to be caught up in it.
The presentation marked Cook’s first time in the spotlight – last month’s textbooks for iPad announcement excepting – and the company’s former chief operating officer impressed with his earnest demeanour and amenable southern drawl.
He may not have impressed execs at Google however, as he took time from recounting all of Apple’s most recent successes to have a go at the iPad’s competitions, specifically Android tablets. These lacked all of the iPad’s 200,00 native apps, he said.
“You won’t find these incredible apps on other tablets…and you won’t find that great experience.” His first example? Twitter running on a Samsung-made Android tablet, which he claimed was slow and clunky compared to its equivalent on iPad.
“You can see it’s pretty basic…it kind of looks like a blown up smartphone app. That’s because it’s exactly what it is.”
This war is nothing new, of course. Steve Jobs famously vowed to “destroy” Android, and the ongoing patent disputes between Apple and Google’s Android partners are testament to that.
But slowly, Apple is starting to show its customers that it doesn’t need Google, and neither do you. A subtle example of this was on show last night: the impressive new iPhoto for iPad.
You see that? That’s a screenshot, spotted by Stephen Hackett, from the new iPhoto for iPad. Look closely – can you see what’s strange? That’s right. That’s not Google Maps being used for geo-tagging.
That raises a much more serious concern for Google. What happens when Apple can use its own technology for mapping on the iPhone? Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt was a proud partner standing on stage with Steve Jobs back in 2007 when the first iPhone was launched. At the time, Google Map’s implementation on the iPhone was revolutionary. But Google Maps on iPhone has never been called that, just Maps. Apple has always kept its name out, no doubt as a placeholder for a time when it can finally shrug off this last key partnership with Google.
I suspect that time is near. Apple will drop Google for its iPhone Maps like a hot stone at some point soon, and my guess is that to coincide with this move, it will introduce its own free turn by turn navigation service, as Google and Nokia provide on their own smartphone platforms. It’ll be damn slick too, courtesy of C3 Technologies, another company it acquired late last year, and its 3D mapping skills.
It could get much worse for Google too. What happens if, or when, Apple drops it as the default search engine on the Safari browser on all the 315 million iOS devices it’s now sold? Google pays in the region of $300m (£190m) per year for that privilege on Mozilla’s Firefox browser, which has a similar number of users.
Apple doesn’t want Google’s money, but you can bet Google sure wants all that iOS traffic. It’s already been booted off the iOS keyboard. So what happens when Apple partners up with Bing instead, as has been rumoured for some time?
As Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller told the Wall Street Journal last night, the company is changing tack now . “We don’t want to be predictable,” he said.
This is just speculation of course, but last night made Apple’s new approach abundantly clear. Apple is taking its war with Google out of the courtroom and right into the devices it buys, and to the ultimate arbiters: customers. Me. You.