The New York Times lays out an interesting tidbit from the latest on the series of articles from the Maps soap opera: Steve Jobs decided to make a mapping app for the iPhone just weeks before its launch event.
Including a maps app on the first iPhone was not even part of the company’s original plan as the phone’s unveiling approached in January 2007. Just weeks before the event, Mr. Jobs ordered a mapping app to show off the capabilities of the touch-screen device.
Two engineers put together a maps app for the presentation in three weeks, said a former Apple engineer who worked on iPhone software, and who declined to be named because he did not want to speak publicly about his previous employer. The company hastily cut a deal with Google to use its map data.
Google, at the time, and probably still, has the best mapping data. However, choosing the company that bought the Android phone OS startup two years prior might not have been the best long-term decision. Over the past five years, as mapping has increasingly improved and phones have become faster and faster connections, Geo-location is suddenly one of the most important features on a smartphone and having the best data is a big strategic advantage.
The Times goes on to say that Google was blindsided by the decision to build maps in-house, which Apple revealed at WWDC in June.
While Google knew that Apple eventually wanted to build its own maps, there had been no indication that it would do so this year, since there was about a year left on the contract between the two companies, according to people briefed on the negotiations who did not want to be named discussing internal matters.
I can say without any doubt that Google knew it was being dumped as early as late 2011 (and probably much earlier). In fact, if we knew, how could it not know? Apple executives, the report says, were also blindsided by the failures of Apple’s Maps and are also scrambling to get to the level of the app it replaced.
Even with the maps controversy, the iPhone 5 is still selling incredibly well. Moreover, Apple is far from being able to catch up with demand.