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Apple Needs Google More Than It Wants to Admit

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For the past few months, my iPhone has seemed incomplete. The fabulous functionality I've become accustomed to over the past few years was missing and tools that I once took for granted on the iPhone now required a trip to my office to check the computer. But alas, Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Maps is back and we can all go on with business as usual.

By now, everyone knows that the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) Maps launch was a complete miss by Apple, but it underscores a larger point for the company. Apple's devices are great and easy to use, but it's the apps that people really want. Take away our Google Maps and you have an uproar, something Apple failed to recognize.

Google's role in Apple
Maps wasn't the only Google app to be pulled from iOS 6 earlier this year. YouTube was also dropped from the system's integrated apps. Apple clearly wanted to push Google from such an important role in its own operating system, in part because Google's Android operating system is its biggest competition. Despite pushing Google from this preferred status, Google is still a staple on Apple's devices and is a top choice of iOS users.

  • Google's search engine is integrated into Safari, not only on iOS, but also on Macs.
  • Google Maps is now the No. 1 free app on the App Store with YouTube at No. 3, and Google Earth at No. 4. On the iPad, YouTube is No. 1, Gmail is No. 6, and Google Earth is No. 9.  

Apple can't simply push Google to the side -- and it shouldn't. Google provides important tools that millions of people use on Apple's devices every day. Apple needs Google -- probably more than Google needs Apple.

The big question
Here's the question I've been pondering as someone who uses all things Apple. Would you still buy Apple devices if none of Google's apps were available on iOS?

It's not as easy a question as you might think. The difference between Apple Maps and Google Maps is enormous. Accessing YouTube is a pain on a mobile web browser versus the apps. Plus, I probably use Google search on my iOS devices more than any other function. If Google weren't available at all on my Apple devices, I could make the switch tomorrow.

As Apple expands into new markets and companies like Google and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB  ) grow, the challenge will only get worse. If you think missing Google would be bad, can you imagine Apple selling iPhones without Facebook? Let's hope they never get into the same kind of tiff Apple and Google are currently in.

It's time to play nice
Google has its fingers in so many things we use today that crossover is bound to happen between the two companies. But after Maps, I hope Apple has learned just how important big partners like Google are, even if it's a strained partnership.

Facebook will probably pose similar challenges in the future as it expands its reach. This is another company Apple will need to be partners with.

Apps matter
If you don't think apps matter to Apple, just ask Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) how Surface sales are going without a large app store. The same could be said for Research In Motion's (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) tablets or Barnes & Noble's (NYSE: BKS  ) Nook. It's not the 250,000th app that matters to consumers, it's the big ones, and without those, a device maker loses its advantage -- no matter how cool the device is.

Advantage of open source
Maybe we're seeing a key advantage to Google's open-source platform. Google has less incentive to care about who is selling more devices or which operating system people are using. Its stated goal is to get more people on the web, and by extension, more people using search. This inherently has less conflicts than Apple's model, which requires key partners who aren't always the best of friends.  

Still a top stock?
None of this means that Apple isn't a great stock, only that it needs to find ways to appease companies like Google, which are vitally important to its success.

There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever, and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with over 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and more importantly, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.

Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (4)

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 December 15, 2012, at 12:16 AM, applefan1 wrote:

    The only things I use that Google does is gmail, search, YouTube. Gmail I get through the Mail app, Search is available in safari, and YouTube I can get through Safari. I use Apple Maps or MapQuest if Google Maps wasn't around or i can use Google maps through a browser. It's not really that big of a deal to me, maybe to others, but I am not that reliant on their apps. I actually find their apps to have a cheap 2D quality that isn't that great to begin with. google search is OK, but it sometimes has problems giving good informtion. Gmail, is fairly simple, so I only have it because I didn't have a mobile me account, then when iCloud came out, I didn't need gmail anymore. I really don't rely on Map programs in the first place, only to check to see if they accurate or just poking around. That's it for me.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2012, at 12:21 AM, applefan1 wrote:

    I think Apple will get Maps problems worked out next year. When google maps and mapquest first came out, they weren't accurate either, so I give them some time, but in the mean time, I have alternatives. I just played around with a friend's Android phone and it was a pain in the ass to learn and even my friend is confused by it and wants to get an iPhone and they aren't the only Android users that feel the same way. With all of the customization, widgets, etc. I see Android as just a mess that attracts certain people, but I don't see the OS getting better fast enough. It reminds me of an OS with too much and it can get confusing and people can accidentally press the wrong thing. Even swiping through pages I accidentally pressed something and it just got to be a mes. Too many buttons, too confusing, and just too much to administrate. Sorry, but Android is for those with nothing better to do with their time but play around with the interface.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2012, at 12:20 PM, bbrriilliiaanntt wrote:

    The only Google service I use is 'google search', but imagine that Bing! Would be close enough. Apple maps works great for me, the turn by turn nav, flyby, vector mapping are great, have never gotten bad directions and I use it every day including out of town trips. I do like Google Earth but how important is that really? Summary, Google needs Apple waaaaay more than Apple needs Google, prolly why Larry Page wants a truce so badly and Apple could care less?

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2012, at 12:23 PM, bbrriilliiaanntt wrote:

    Google has made bitter enemies of every key tech player, not just Microsoft & Apple, but Facebook as well with Google+. Sometimes it's not wise to be the only person on 1-side of a street fight...

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2012, at 2:05 AM, andyholguin wrote:

    Seriously? is this guy a complete idiot...excuse me he's a FOOL, let's start from the beginning, slowly so he can follow.... Goggle was producing an inferior mapping product for IOS, so by releasing their own mapping product, Apple forced Google to produce a better product and Apple loses? Maps are hard and Apple will eventually produce a good product and capture a profitable x percentage of a billion dollar plus market as well as continue to force Google to produce a competitive product for IOS. How these Foolish (their name) writers think Apple losses is beyond me.

  • Report this Comment On December 17, 2012, at 8:22 PM, saikungbob wrote:

    andyholguin is right. If Apple hadn't launched their own map app, Google would have continued to ignore the need to upgrade to match the features available on Android devices.

    I have a very mixed opinion about Google. Many of their services/products are very good, but many of their practices are suspect, at best. We shouldn't forget that, at the core, they are an advertising company. Their products/services exist simply to get us to give them more of our personal data. In other words, they are a very effective phishing enterprise. Like the Venus Flytrap, they use color and sweet smells to lure us into doing things that may not be in our long term best interests.

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