Last night the internet was on fire with the release of Google Maps on iOS. When iOS 6 was released, Apple shed it's once close relationship with Google and removed Google Maps and YouTube as pre-installed apps on it's operating system. This instantly removed tens of millions of iOS users from Google's data mine and in turn made it more difficult for them to use Google's services. A lot of people questioned the move as both apps have become staples for even the most casual iOS user. Apple Maps didn't have the warmest reception, to put it lightly and using YouTube or Google Maps via the web hasn't been ideal. But mere months after the release of iOS 6, Google has since released updates to nearly all of their most used apps. Google's design prowess has increased exponentially in the past couple of years. It has shown in their last releases of Android and it's starting to show up in their iOS apps as well. Google+ was the first app to show just how good a Google app could be on iOS. Google Search and Youtube came shortly after followed by Gmail and Google Maps. What does this mean for Apple as many of their core experiences are being supplanted by some users with Google products?
Google makes their money from advertising. The more people using their products, the more money they make advertising. More users also means more data, which allows them to better serve those ads as well as create better products. Creating great services to attract users overrides any "feud" they may have with Apple. They've done this with all of their new iOS apps and should get a lot of the users back that they've lost due to iOS 6.
Apple has shed the proverbial monkey off it's back and has uprooted Google from it's stock experience. They've also created their own Maps app, while not perfect, has lots of potential and allows them to collect valuable data that could be used in future products. Google creating great iOS apps does two positive things for Apple. It satiates the millions of Apple customers that use Google products and eliminates some of the curiosity of those users that may have been thinking of switching to Android. Apple prides itself on the experiences they create for their users so I don't believe they're going to take this lying down. I'd expect some software improvements across the board in the next 12 months.
The biggest winners of this whole kerfuffle are the end users. No matter which of the two leading platforms you choose, you're going to get a good Google experience on either. On Android you may get a better experience in some cases due to integration with the OS; the Google experiences on Apple products are as good as any 3rd party developers software and in some cases (Maps, Gmail?) better than 1st party apps. The bright side if you're an Apple user is that you have options. It's never a bad thing to have multiple high quality software options to choose from.
Does There Have To Be A Loser?
This is the probably the best possible outcome Apple could hope for and I'm sure they know it. Anyone expecting Apple Maps to have parity with Google Maps in only a couple of years isn't being realistic. Google has poured billions of dollars and countless man-hours into getting their maps to the usability level it is today. Sure, Apple may have been caught off guard by the slightly overblown outcry from "map-gate". I'm also sure they're at least somewhat embarrassed as everyone praises the new Google Maps app, but that's a short-term injury that will be largely forgotten by most in the next year.
After considering all of that, who would've guessed 6 months ago that Apple getting rid of Google's apps would resort in better designed/functioning apps replacing them by the end of the year? Of course Google is doing what is has to do. It doesn't benefit Google to keep an insular ecosystem like Apple does. Apple makes money from people buying their hardware, thus providing exclusive features and services entices users to come and stay in Apple's ecosystem. Google on the other hand makes little to no money on Android as a platform, but from users of their services via ads. That allows them to be platform agnostic and go wherever the eyeballs are. There has even been talks recently of Android's latest exclusive product, Google Now, coming to desktops soon. Why would Google make one of the most unique features of Android available to anyone with a browser? Data.
In a way, Google the company benefiting from it's services being on as many mobile devices as possible undermines Android as a platform. The most lauded features that differentiate Android from Apple (customization, widgets, open app store, etc.) are aimed mainly at core Android users, not your everyday smartphone user. In fact, the somewhat busy home screen, wild west app ecosystem and lack of consistent update schedule is what keeps some people away from Android. Apple's predictability and ease of use is why your mom, grandma and technology-challenged brother own iPhones and iPads. In fairness, so far this strategy hasn't stopped Android from capturing 75% of the worldwide smartphone market share in Q3. The problem for Google is most of those users are using older, low-end Android phones with out of date software. They also tend to not use those phone for much more than well....phones. Google wants engaged customers that use the internet, apps and services and so far most of those are on iOS. Both companies can get their desired results, (money) while giving customers the option of two different experiences. This battle is far from over and the competition will only make both sides better.