Apple kicks Google Maps off iPhone, adds Facebook

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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SAN FRANCISCO, California - STEVE Jobs' vendetta against Google remains alive, nine months after the Apple co-founder died feeling betrayed by a company he once embraced as an ally.


Apple is escalating the feud between two of the world's most influential companies by dumping Google's mapping service as a built-in feature on most iPhones and iPads. Apple is also making it easier for users of those devices to share their lives on Facebook instead of Google's competing social network.


The snubs are part of an upgraded mobile operating system that Apple previewed Monday to kick off its 23rd annual developers conference in San Francisco.


Google's mapping service will be replaced by an Apple-designed alternative when the new software for mobile devices, iOS 6, is released this fall. Those who want to continue using Google Maps will have to go through additional hurdle, such as finding and installing its app.


It represents a major blow for Google Inc, which stands to lose mobile advertising revenue and valuable insights about people's whereabouts if users of the popular iPhone and iPad devices switch to Apple's mapping service.


Apple and Google are locked in a fight for the attention of hundreds of millions of mobile device users. The battle has been building since Google's 2008 release of its Android operating system to compete against the iPhone.


Android smartphones from companies such as Samsung Electronics Co and Google's own Motorola division are the chief alternatives to the iPhone. Apple has sued those manufacturers, accusing them of ripping off the iPhone's groundbreaking features.


Google's Maps application has resided on the iPhone since the device's 2007 debut. At that time, the companies were so close that Eric Schmidt, then Google's CEO, appeared on stage with Jobs to hail their kinship.


Android destroyed the relationship. Before he died last October, Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson, that he viewed Android as a form of "grand theft" from Apple and declared "thermonuclear war" against his former ally.


"This is a slap in Google's face," said Tim Bajarin, a Creative Strategies analyst who got to know Jobs well during his 32 years following the company. "I don't think Apple is ever going to be able to bury Android, but this is making it clear that they aren't going to send any more ad revenue Google's way, if at all possible."


Apple updates its iOS software every year, to coincide with the launch of a new iPhone. Google is scheduled to show off the latest developments in Android at a conference that will be held at the same San Francisco venue beginning June 27.


In a statement Monday, Google said it is "looking forward to continuing to build the perfect map for our users in the months and years ahead." In anticipation of Apple's announcement, Google last week previewed a series of upgrades to its mapping service in an effort to make it more convenient and compelling.


In another jab at Google, Apple also said it's building Facebook into iOS 6. That threatens to make it more difficult for Google to drive traffic to its Google Plus social network, a high priority for the company. As it is, Google has more than 170 million users while Facebook has more than 900 million users.


Among other things, users of Apple's new software will be able to update their Facebook status by talking to their phones and declare that they "like" movies and apps in Apple's iTunes store.


The tie-in with Apple's mobile devices could be a boon for Facebook Inc, based on the usage of Twitter since that online messaging service became part of the current mobile system, iOS 5. Apple says more than 10 billion tweets have been sent from its mobile devices since last year's upgrade to iOS 5.


Facebook, though, has warned investors that it still hasn't figured out how to make a lot of money from mobile devices, where so far it has proven more difficult to bring in as much ad revenue as on traditional computers.


The iOS 6 also will highlight more features from online business review service Yelp Inc, and online restaurant reservation service OpenTable Inc. Both of those companies are competing against Zagat, a review service that Google bought last year for US$151 million ($13.3 bilion).


Besides the upcoming iOS, Apple also showed off updated laptops and new features in its software for Mac computers.


Investors appeared to be expecting something more revolutionary, such as more hints about Apple's ambition to expand into making TVs. Analysts had speculated that Apple would at least update the software on the Apple TV, a small box that connects a TV set to iTunes for movie downloads, as a prelude to perhaps launching a fully integrated TV set.


Apple Inc. shares closed down US$9.15, or 1.6 per cent, at US$571.17. Google shares shed US$11.95, or more than two per cent, to close at US$568.50.


Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered the keynote Monday at an event that last year turned out to be Jobs' farewell appearance. In a contrast to Jobs' showmanship, Cook spoke only briefly during a nearly two-hour presentation orchestrated by his top lieutenants.


Among other updates in iOS 6, Apple's voice-command application Siri will add a host of languages, including Spanish, Korean and Mandarin Chinese. "She" will also be able to launch applications and movies and will run on iPads for the first time.


Apple's new version of its Mac operating system, Mountain Lion, will go on sale next month for US$20. The update brings features from Apple's phone and tablet software to the Mac. That includes the iMessage texting application, which will replace iChat.


Microsoft Corp, Apple's competitor when it comes to computer software, is also making Windows more like its phone software, with the release of Windows 8 later this year. A key difference is that Microsoft is betting that PCs will have touch screens, while Apple is betting they won't.


Mountain Lion will also bring dictation to Macs. Users will be able to input text by talking to the computer, in any programme. This is already a feature in Windows.


Apple showed off a laptop with a super-high resolution Retina display, setting a new standard for screen sharpness.


The new MacBook Pro will have a 15-inch (38.1-centimetre) screen and four times the resolution of previous models, Apple executive Phil Schiller said.


Apple already uses Retina displays — with individual pixels too small to be distinguished by the naked eye — in its latest iPhones and iPads.


On the phones and tablets, the Retina display is a standard feature. On the MacBook, it's an expensive upgrade. The new MacBook will cost US$2,199 and up, US$400 more than the non-Retina MacBook with the same-sized screen.


Despite the high price, Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin predicted the souped-up MacBook will be a hit. "It's a sexy machine," he said. "Any self-respecting gadget lover is going to be drooling over this thing."


The new MacBook borrows features from the ultra-slim MacBook Air. It's only slightly thicker, and like the Air, lacks a DVD drive. Instead of a spinning hard drive, it uses flash memory for storage. In the most radical departure from past PC designs, it lacks an Ethernet port. Those who don't want to use Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet will have to buy an adapter that goes into the MacBook's Thunderbolt port.


Apple's other MacBooks are being updated with the latest processors from Intel Corp. Apple will still sell a more traditional 15-inch (38.1-centimetre) MacBook Pro, with a standard display.


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