Apple Renews Maps Deal With Google — What’s Up With That?

Last night Danny posted about Eric Schmidt’s on-stage interview at the D9 conference in Southern California. Among the many things Schmidt discussed was a renewal of Apple’s deal to use Google Search and Maps on iOS devices.

Although this was first reported last week, it still comes as a something of a surprise — at least the Maps part. (The search deal was seemingly renewed last year.)

Maps is one of the most-used/searched mobile content categories. Depending on the report or survey maps typically come in second or third place in the hierarchy, as the Google survey data below illustrate:

It almost goes without saying that Google Maps on the iPhone has been very successful. While the iOS version of Google Maps is much less “robust” than its Android sibling, it’s a “strategic” app for Google nonetheless.

Taking a step back, Apple has been building a “geo team” and acquiring mapping assets for the past two-plus years. In 2009 Apple bought Google Maps competitor Placebase. Last year it bought a Google Earth-like product called Poly 9.

In March of this year, 9 to 5 Mac exposed a job posting at Apple for an iOS Maps Application Developer:

Come work for the team that revolutionized the mobile technology industry as it continues to define what computing looks like in a post-PC era. The Maps team is looking for a proactive and hardworking software engineer to join our team. Along with excellent skills in object-oriented software design and programming, the successful candidate will have real-world experience developing sophisticated user interfaces. Excellent communication skills are also a must, as you will be collaborating closely with Apple’s peerless human interface team to add new and innovative features.

In addition Apple also explicitly stated in a press release responding to “locationgate” that it was building a traffic database to support “an improved traffic service”:

Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.

With so many indications that Apple is developing a mapping and navigation capability, what’s up with the “renewal”? My guess is that Apple simply isn’t ready to unveil whatever its maps offering will be at this point.

Some kind of Apple Maps product is probably inevitable; but when will we see it and how will it relate to or replace Google Maps?

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Features: Analysis | Google: Maps & Local | Google: Mobile

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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