As Facebook ceases to hold on to much claim to be a serious long term player on the technology/internet interface battlefield, it leaves just two mighty proponents facing each other.
These are the giants that look set to slug out the battle for the dollar over the coming year or two, before the next upstart pushed them off the stage and into the footnotes of history.
In the one corner, Apple. In the other, Google.
Oh but hang on, what about Amazon? What about Microsoft? Twitter… yes, but for the immediate time ahead, it’s Apple and Google that are at each other’s throats.
Mapping the Future
Apple has stepped up its campaign with its own maps application for iPhone and iPad, ditching the long standing (since 2007) Google Maps from the entire iOS system from iOS6 onwards.
Reports from the California launch (June 2012) indicated that it would be included in a free update of software for Apple users of iPhones and iPads and would include 3D models of major global cities, created from flights 1600 feet up by a private air force allowing images, in the words of Mark Harris and Robin Henry in the Sunday Times, ‘only previously available to intelligence services.’
Fully compatible with Apple’s Siri, voice-controlled assistance, the new maps can plan routes and answer user questions. It is thought the new technology can reveal objects as small as 4 inches long
It shows how the relatively recent rivalry between the two leviathans has accelerated. Google is now intent on dominance of the smartphone market through Android. Some believe that the new turn-by-turn mapping system could also threaten sales of satnavs.
The Real Issue
Google is busy upgrading its own maps systems with camera planes but the new Apple one will be impressive, at least for a time. Google is still, in a sense, recovering from teh negative and often hostile publicity about the way its Street View was captured by camera cars. Privacy campaigners are even more concerned with the intrusiveness of air-borne 3D surveillance.
3D maps are not in themselves a new feature. They have been around a time, but are often poor quality, unfit for effective navigation. That is changing.
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch told the Sunday Times that ‘the next generation of maps are taking us over the garden fence.’ He feared all concerns about individual privacy are routinely, even contemptuously brushed aside in ‘the race to the bottom’.
Apple bought C3 Technologies, a company that used technology developed by Saab AB, defence and aerospace business. One unnamed exectuve described the new Apple service as ‘Google on steroids.’
Privacy Is Not Going Away
The debate about what is acceptable privacy is not done with, by any means. Some think Apple will face a consumer backlash from the more ‘suburban and rural areas’ get wise to it. Certainly, there seems to be widespread acceptance that it will assist burglars and other criminals, even more than Street View does.
Interestingly, for the Harris and Henry article in the Sunday Times, ‘Apple and Google declined to comment.’ What else would we expect?
Just three days after the Sunday Times‘ piece, the Daily Telegraph reported on the same battle between Google and Apple, but with different emphasis and headline angle. For Katherine Rushton the hot story was that iPhone and iPad will now ‘integrate Facebook for the first time.’
She then went on to explain that the change which will impact hundreds of millions of users was less about another gear shift in technology, than ‘a seismic shift in loyalties.’
The decision to ‘cosy up’ to Facebook after the ‘two alpha males blanked’ each other for so long, is the result of Apple’s ‘pragmatic approach to alliances’. Paradoxically, the move has helped to slow just a little the decline in Facebook’s downward slide of its share value.
Rushton continued by speculating that ‘if an Apple alliance can give a leg up to a business the size of Facebook’, then the converse is true. It can severely damage the prospects of one such as Google.
That’s war, that’s business, of course. Rushton pointed out it could not come at a worse time for Google, facing possible EU intervention about web search dominance, possible new taxes demanded by rivals to share the cost of new broadband infrastructure and legislative consequences following Google’s attitude to personal privacy.
All of these things could hit hard and simultaneously. And there are signs it is cooling with Microsoft and across ‘music, telecoms and publishing industries.’ Other social media websites are flexing muscles to make/break strategic allegiances to win consumer data.
The only thing we can be sure about as the battles get bloody, is that whoever wins will make a lot of money.
The Sunday Times, Mark Harris and Robin Henry, Take cover, Apple’s spy is overhead, 10 June 2012.
The Daily Telegraph, Katherine Rushton, Apple turns its back on Google, 13 June 2012.
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Image: US Air Force