Google Can Finally Kill Apple

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Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone 5 is a hit, but it isn't perfect.

The loudest knock on the device -- though it's technically a knock on iOS, 6 so it applies to older Apple devices as well -- is the new mapping feature.

Warped images, barren map details, missing public-transit information, and dodgy directions have made Apple Maps a surprising disaster. The move to boot Google Maps as its default mapping platform now seems like a mistake looking back, though why does the rearview mirror show a wickedly distorted bridge that we never took?

Apple has a problem. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) can fix it. Then again, maybe it's in Google's best interest not to fix it at all.

The power of an updated app
A few years ago, Apple and Google were chummy tech leaders. Google's CEO even sat on Apple's board. However, the growing battle between iOS and Android has changed everything. From smartphones to tablets, Google and Apple are the only two feasible choices on either platform at the moment.

Apple went public with its decision this summer to cut ties with Google's popular YouTube and Google Maps as preloaded native iOS features. Apple doesn't necessarily have an in-house replacement for YouTube, but why should it be promoting Google's world-leading video-sharing website?

In that regard, Google gave Apple a break. It rolled out a spruced-up iOS app for YouTube two weeks ago, and it's a hit. YouTube has been the top App Store download since shortly after its launch. Folks buying the iPhone 5 -- or having upgraded to iOS 6 on earlier iPhones, iPads, or iPod touch devices since Wednesday -- are realizing that there's no longer a YouTube icon on the home screen. A quick App Store visit remedies the displeasure.

The mapping fix isn't as easy. There is no standalone Google Maps application, though it's available as an app option as part of a general Google search app.

What if Google chooses not to cash in on the opportunity by rushing a Google Maps iOS download to Apple's rescue? What if it lets the world's most valuable technology company drown off some unchartered island with Apple Maps?

What if it decides to take down the YouTube app while it's at it? What becomes of Apple then?

Bugs do get fixed
The one thing working in Apple's favor is that improving its new buggy mapping application isn't a hardware issue. This isn't 2010's Antennagate, where Apple needed a hardware update to fix the reception problem with its iPhone 4. Apple can -- and will -- beef up Apple Maps soon.

However, what this really means is that the window of time for Google to exploit this shortcoming is small.

It's time, folks, for attack ads.

Yes, Apple brilliantly tore Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Vista to shreds with the "I'm a Mac -- I'm a PC" ads a few years back. By the time the campaign came to a close, the battle of perception was won by Apple. Paying a premium for Macs and MacBooks made sense. Why can't Google escalate the iOS vs. Android battle with ads showing the woefully distorted Apple mapping blunders? Oh, they're out there. Between now and the time Apple adequately fixes its maps, Google should be milking this flub.

Holding back on updates of its own can always backfire. Microsoft's refusal to make its Office suite of productivity applications available on iOS didn't slow down the iPad from eating into its PC stronghold. Apple fans may find worthy substitutes for Google's video and mapping -- just as developers created workarounds for the lack of Microsoft support -- and Big G would follow Mr. Softy in shedding relevance.

Isn't this still a gamble worth taking if you're Google? Android is already the global standard for mobile operating systems, and scaling back support of iOS would force Apple's hand into justifying the reasons its products are worth a premium.

Your move, Google -- and for heaven's sake, don't map it out on Apple. You'll never get there.

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The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Apple, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Google, and Apple, creating a bull call spread position in Apple, and creating a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He owns no shares in any of the stocks in this story and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (19) | Recommend This Article (11)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2012, at 7:31 PM, JHawkinTexas wrote:

    LMAO! More foolish dribble from yet another fool. Question: who stands to lose the most from Apple pulling YouTube and google based maps from the iPhone? Hint: it's not Apple. What's more interesting is who stands to gain? Think of a third party vendor who is a force in mapping that could use this as an opportunity to make significant gains on both iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile?

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2012, at 7:37 PM, TONYLEVIN wrote:

    It seems like Fools up to their name And its so open (do not like Apple)

    May not invest or any other reason but .......

    Why kill best american company....

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2012, at 7:43 PM, lrd555 wrote:

    We'll see who kills who.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2012, at 8:13 PM, Gromlakh wrote:

    Anyone who seriously believes Google would even consider any of this for a second has absolutely no understanding of Google's business model. Google makes money by having people use their apps, whether they be web apps, mobile apps, or whatever, so that those people become satisfied Google users and will continue to seek out Google for useful apps. Google does not care who runs the system and they do not succeed by closing off access to their apps. Google provides access to everyone and wants everyone to be able to use their apps even if there is not an opportunity for that person to be served with ads at the time they use them. Google will rush a standalone Google Maps app to iOS as fast as they possibly can (if they haven't finished it already), and the only thing that will keep it from being available is Apple refusing to allow it because they want to force iCult users to have to use their crappy maps app.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2012, at 8:13 PM, tychicum wrote:

    Andoid is so good that Google has to give it away for free.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2012, at 9:47 PM, Foolorama wrote:

    Can't we all just get along?

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2012, at 10:01 PM, HiramWalker wrote:
  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2012, at 10:03 PM, detoxdomain wrote:

    Apples going nowhere, they have zero innovation in there pipe line. The play store is free as any store is free to walk into. Google had a vision while apple has reached its peek and its been nice. The decline will begin around this time next year.

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2012, at 11:45 PM, qualledd wrote:

    FYI ... Google doesn't have a monopoly on mapping.

    There are other alternatives out there, that with a little effort and money (which Apple has a little of) can be made to compete with Google Maps.

    Yes, it kinda sounds like Apple blew it with their maps and relying on Tom Tom, but there are other companies that can provide mapping technologies if Tom Tom / Apple doesn't work out.

  • Report this Comment On September 24, 2012, at 7:49 AM, jdmeck wrote:

    A big deal about nothing. Easily fixed with a software patch. If Google was a bunch of dicks we wouldn't have this problem.

  • Report this Comment On September 24, 2012, at 11:49 PM, canadacomments wrote:

    Gromlakh is the only commentator that makes any sense. Rick's suggestion that Google should start a war with Apple over this is nonsensical. In 2 to 3 weeks from now (I know that that is eons to the technocrati) this will all pass over.

  • Report this Comment On September 25, 2012, at 12:32 AM, canadacomments wrote:

    For more info on this topic, from a slightly different point of view, read the following:

  • Report this Comment On September 25, 2012, at 10:52 AM, chopchop0 wrote:

    The market is already seeing this.... look at GOOG vs AAPL over the past 6 months in performance....

  • Report this Comment On September 28, 2012, at 11:49 AM, 8martini8 wrote:

    Strangely superficial treatment by one of the truly smart Fools, failing to even consider whether Google has a financial interest in being on iPhone with its mapping app as a default, harvesting enormous warehouses of data on iPhone users' whereabouts and movement patterns. Surely there couldn't be any reason for a company whose bread-and-butter is advertising would have an interest in this piffling consumer demographic, is there? Naaaaah.

  • Report this Comment On September 28, 2012, at 11:51 AM, whyaduck1128 wrote:

    Foolorama says:

    Can't we all just get along?


    No, we can't.

    Thanks for asking a question for which I actually had an answer. That doesn't happen very often.

  • Report this Comment On September 28, 2012, at 12:51 PM, Bezhe wrote:

    "What if it lets the world's most valuable technology company drown off some unchartered island..."

    Uncharted = unmapped. Strange that this error would appear in an article about mapping software!

  • Report this Comment On September 28, 2012, at 12:58 PM, barnett1959 wrote:

    Google biggest challenge is in spite of selling millions of phones, which they often lose money on. they still receive more revenue from the Apple APP store. That is a huge problem for Google and plays in to Apple. The operating system wins this not the hardware and Google's operating system is awful compared to Apple's. Hey every try and Google Customer support for a problem with their products? What a joke,

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2012, at 5:14 PM, hettingr wrote:

    Why all the fuss about Apple's maps? I love it. I've been using the Google maps app for years, but the change in usability on both iPHone and iPad is just great!! Too many people amplifying nit-picking, just like in politics. Much ado about nothing, most of the time.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2012, at 5:40 PM, sssteverrr wrote:

    I don't know if I am an unusual IPhone user but in all the time I have had my IPhones from the 3GS on I think I used google maps 3 times and thought it was a royal pain in the butt. I only used Motion x for location searches and navigation and was very happy. I have used Google Earth and street view maybe 10 times in 5 years. They are mostly useless toys, as is Apples 3D Fly Over. they're cool but mostly useless.

    Since I chucked Motion X for Apple Maps I have not had one problem, yea zilch, with Apple maps . I have only heard whining and complaining from Android users who can't use Apple maps.

    If there is an IPhone user here who has a problem with Apple maps, please, please, speak up, I want to know.

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