Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, during an interview at the 92nd Street Y in New York last night, made the case that Apple should have kept Google Maps on the iPhone. “Apple’s done very well using our maps,” he joked.
When asked directly about a forthcoming iOS Google Maps app, Schmidt gave the familiar line that he didn’t want to “pre-announce” products. He also repeated another line he’s said before: “Apple would have to approve it.”
Multiple reports have effectively confirmed that Google is working on an iOS maps app. These reports also suggest that since the public announcement of Apple Maps in June Google has been working on this. Yet there are also seemingly contradictory reports asserting that Google was blindsided by the timing of Apple’s release of its own mapping product.
In contrast to those reports, Schmidt calmly asserted that Google anticipated Apple Maps “long ago” because of the various acquisitions the company made in the mapping space, starting in 2009 with Placebase. “We knew this was coming,” Schmidt explained.
When interviewer Walt Mossberg suggested Apple was motivated to do its own maps because of the absence of turn-by-turn navigation and the functionality gap between maps on Android and the iPhone, Schmidt sidestepped the question. “We had negotiated all these details with Apple and the fact of the matter is that they had decided a long time ago to do their own maps.”
I suspect we’ll never know exactly what happened between the companies and their negotiation over navigation and other mapping features. Google has suggested Apple was unreasonable in its demands and desire for control. But other reports argue that Google wanted to maintain key features as exclusive to the Android platform. As an aside, maps were apparently also a stumbling block in failed Nokia-Google negotiations over the Android platform (Nokia owns mapping provider Navteq).
“What Apple has learned is that maps are really hard,” said Schmidt. “We invested hundreds of millions of dollars in satellite work, airplane work, drive-by work to get the maps accurate. We think we have the best product in the industry.”
He added that he thought Apple Maps would also get better over time. The question is how long will that take and whether Apple will need to buy more companies to accelerate the process.
You can watch the full Eric Schmidt interview below.
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