One of the most immediate effects of Steve Jobs’ legacy on Apple is an animosity towards Google fueled by what Jobs saw as the outright copying of iOS by Android. Big tech companies will always be battling titans, but this is more. This is personal.
Still, the two companies have been bound by the mutual dependence since Google’s services are bundled into iOS. And iMore reports that Google may make four times the ad revenue off of their use in iOS than they do from their own Android platform. Apple wants to change that. Apple has already begun intermediating search queries though Siri, effectively cutting Google out of the valuable identity information associated with those searches. Next up is that other large data components on iOS, maps.
It was widely reported yesterday that Apple will likely announce at its WWDC in June that the new version of the built-in maps app in iOS6 will not be fed by Google maps. Instead, Apple has developed its own, in-house 3-D mapping database, based on the acquisition of three mapping software companies between 2009 and 2011, Placebase, C3 Technologies, and Poly9. The stunning 3D image above is from C3, which, according to the company, uses “previously classified image processing technology… automated software and advanced algorithms… to rapidly assemble extremely precise 3D models, and seamlessly integrate them with traditional 2D maps, satellite images, street level photography and user generated images.” The video below shows a flyover of Oslo using C3′s technology.
So if this report is true, Apple will have a new maps app with much more highly-detailed imagery than Google, collected through military-style reconnaissance without the (ahem) gathering of any personal information. It is a good bet that Apple will finesse the transitions between the different map modes far better than Google’s wonky shift from “map view” to “street view.” What could go wrong? Although Apple now owns the source and can engineer accordingly, the new app likely runs more image data through the pipe, so performance on mobile devices—where it’s most critical—is going to be an issue. Apple may have to build in detection of the processor speed of the requesting iOS device and send a thinner stream to older iPhones than to the new quad-core iPads.
There is obviously an interesting business story here about how Apple and other tech companies are trying to chip away at Google’s dominance of web services. But even more interesting, to me, is the end-user’s story. The bloody competition between Apple and Google is leading Apple to create more innovative user experiences for its customers, and that is a good thing. An operating system is just a container for content, and recreating content is much more difficult than just knocking off its container. By creating a new source for the content of maps on iOS, Apple is making their platform more distinct from Android, as if to say, “You can only copy so much.” Although Apple is always improving user experience, this particular effort might have not happened had Steve Jobs not threatened to go “thermonuclear.”
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Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) Web browser reversed years of declines and posted a net gain of 1.2 percent usage share globally over the past five months, according to a report from measurement firm NetApplications. As of March 2012, IE claimed 53.83 percent of Web browser market share, followed by Firefox with 20.55 percent, Google’s Chrome browser with 18.57 percent and Safari with 5.07 percent. Opera placed fifth with 1.62 percent, and other Web browsers claimed the remaining 0.36 percent.
“With a gain of .99 percent last month and a net gain of 1.2 percent global usage share over the last five months, Internet Explorer has stabilized and even reversed its usage share declines of the last few years,” the company wrote. Chrome witnessed its third straight month of declines after falling from its peak of 19.11 percent market share in December 2011. Although Apple’s Safari browser slipped in market share from February to March, the browser’s overall market share rose .07 percent for the five-month period.
“We continue to see great strides made against our core metric: IE9 share on Windows 7,” Microsoft’s director of Internet Explorer product marketing Roger Capriotti wrote on the company’s Exploring IE blog. “This month in the US nearly 50 percent of Windows 7 users are experiencing the best the Web has to offer with IE9, and around the world, almost 35 percent of Windows 7 users are browsing with IE9.”
The IE8 browser was the most used desktop browser, comprising 25.4 percent of the market, followed by IE9 with 15.17 percent. Chrome 17 took third place with 14.73 percent, while Firefox claimed fourth place with 7.79 percent market share. IE6, which Microsoft had been making a big fuss about the death of in the U.S., rounded out the top five with 6.9 percent. As of December, that total stood at 7.7 percent, most of it in mainland China. However, according to the January NetApplications report, use of IE6 in this country has dropped to beneath 1 percent. Early in 2011, Microsoft started a Website, The Internet Explorer 6 Countdown, which used data from Net Applications to detail IE6 usage around the world.
Microsoft is intent on creating browsers that leverage Windows and hardware in order to more quickly deliver fully rendered Websites. With Internet Explorer 10, Microsoft plans on further embracing that theme. To that end, the next-generation browser will come to the upcoming Windows 8 in two versions: one for the desktop, and another “Metro”-style one for tablets. The desktop version will fully support plug-ins and extensions, while the Metro-style browser will be plug-in free.
On the mobile browser side of things, Safari continued to dominate, grabbing 60.54 percent of market share in March, compared with 18.3 percent for Google’s Android Browser, 15.39 percent for Opera Mini, 1.73 percent for BlackBerry and 1.56 percent for Symbian. The “other” category comprised 2.48 percent of mobile browser market share, according to the report.