Give Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) credit for good timing. With Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) new Maps app suffering from (mostly) well-deserved criticism, the search king this week released a video to YouTube showing how Google Maps users can take Street View straight into the ocean in some parts of the mapped world:
"Now, anyone can become the next virtual Jacques Cousteau and dive with sea turtles, fish and manta rays in Australia, the Philippines and Hawaii," wrote Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps and Earth, in a blog post announcing the upgrade.
But there's also subtext at work. Specifically: don't try this with your iPhone, folks. Apple's Maps can't do what Google Maps can.
Mac, the new PC
I can't remember the last time we've seen Apple mocked like this. Usually, it's the other way around, such as when the Mac maker took to the airwaves to lampoon Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and its troubled Vista edition of the Windows operating system. The "I'm a Mac" campaign from those days has since become advertising legend, trailing only Apple's "1984" ad in its withering effectiveness.
Comparing the new Google Maps unveiling to the "1984" ad would be grossly overstating what's going on here. After all, the video only pitches the desktop version of Google Maps. My Mac is just as capable of rendering underwater Street View as any Chromebook or Windows PC.
Nor are underwater maps a particularly disruptive technology. And yet the point remains. As Android phones and tablets grow in functionality, it's likely we'll see ever more advances in what Google Maps displays as Apple plays catch-up.
We won't have a good read on what the race to provide the best maps interface means until Apple issues a ruling on whether Google gets to submit a separate maps app in the same way that it did with YouTube, which was decoupled from the iPhone's underlying platform with the introduction of iOS 6.
For his part, Apple CEO Tim Cook has written a letter to customers apologizing for the trouble with Maps. "We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better," he wrote.