Apple delivers big blow to fast-growing Android by introducing rival to Google Maps
APPLE HAS introduced its own mobile mapping service and improved the search capabilities of its Siri voice assistant, taking the fight into Google’s domain.
Chief executive Tim Cook spearheaded the unveiling of new services – such as in-house mapping, beefed-up Siri software, and address-bar search on its Safari browser – at the start of the firm’s annual Worldwide Developers’ Conference. Apple hopes to keep at bay Google and its fast-growing Android mobile platform.
The highlight was the debut of Apple’s in-house mapping service after years of development, a direct challenge to the same Google service that is one of the most popular functions on both Android smartphones and the iPhone.
Apple’s new mobile software – the iOS6 – will be available this autumn. It comes with a mapping system “built from the ground up”, said software chief Scott Forstall.
It will be replacing Google Maps, until now a pre-loaded app on the iPhone and iPad, with its own in-house map service, delivering a big blow to Google, which gets about half its mobile map traffic from Apple mobile devices.
The move signals how the friendship between the two tech giants – former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt once sat on Apple’s board – has become a bitter rivalry shaping the evolution of the mobile industry.
Apple’s map service comes with three-dimensional images of cities called Flyover, along with real-time traffic updates and also turn-by-turn navigation, the last a feature that Google has in Android devices but had not made available in Apple devices.
And Siri, the voice-activated iPhone search-feature users have criticised as faulty and inadequate, will now also be available on iPads and recites a larger database of answers, especially sports, restaurants and movies.
Siri is also integrated into the new mapping service so users can ask for step-by-step directions.
Shares in the Dutch software navigation company TomTom rose more than 16 per cent after it said it had signed an agreement with Apple to provide maps and related information.
It also appeared to be a boost to TomTom’s strategic shift towards intellectual property and business services, while managing the decline of its business in personal navigation devices.
TomTom said: “There are three providers of digital maps – Nokia, Google and TomTom – and three main providers of mobile operating systems – Windows, Android and Apple’s iOS.
“Windows uses Nokia maps, Android uses Google, and until yesterday iOS was using Google. But now iOS is switching to TomTom.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012