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Apple plays hardball with iPad Mini reveal

October 22, 2012 06:18 AM ET

The timing of this week's iPad Mini event is just one way in which Apple is using all of its resources to compete.

Dropping Google Maps

Dropping Google Maps, which resulted in the work-in-progress Siri-integrated Maps app in iOS 6, was another great example of this new attitude as well as an important strategic move. Google wasn't providing features that Apple needed to compete -- turn-by-turn navigation being the biggest example. That meant Google was using its mapping technology to give itself a real edge over Apple in the mobile landscape.

Beyond that, every time an iOS device owner used location services and map data -- whether or not that use was in the Maps app itself -- he or she was delivering a wealth of personal and geographic information to Google. Where is the user? What cell towers and Wi-Fi networks are nearby? What generation iPhone and what version of iOS is he or she using? What is he or she looking for -- restaurants, bars, hotels, libraries, offices, shoe stores? What route does the user prefer to get someplace? That's invaluable data for Google to apply to improving its mapping systems, but it's also a ton of demographic data - the type of information that is at the heart of Google's advertising business.

That's information over which Apple had little control. More importantly, it's information that Apple can now use to grow its own mapping and navigation systems, speech recognition technologies, iAd business and marketing plans.

In short, the deal gave Google significant advantages and held Apple back. Kicking Google to the curb and accepting the potential fallout was a ballsy but necessary move, even if it meant taking jabs over its Maps app.

Fighting Android

Of course, if we're going to talk about Apple playing hardball with Google, we have to note the range of patent suits Apple has brought around the world to fight Android.

There's the oft-quoted passage in Walter Isaccson's biography of Jobs where Jobs says that he's willing to "go thermonuclear" to stop Android. For him, Android represented a personal betrayal of trust and one that tugged at the psychic wound inflicted by Microsoft's development of Windows. It was a battle that Jobs would almost certainly press to the highest courts in every possible country were he still alive.

Apple hasn't backed down from that fight under Cook's leadership, but it hasn't made the victory against Samsung this summer personal, either. The company's responses have been well thought out, calmly delivered statements about how Apple led the way with certain technologies or concepts and incurred R&D costs that competitors didn't had to pay.

The Apple message is clear: It will use all of the resources at its disposal to compete. In this case, one of those resources is the U.S. patent system and the sheer volume of patents that Apple owns. You can argue about whether the patent system in the U.S. is broken or whether Apple should have been granted some patents. But the fact is that Apple has the patents and will use them. Doing anything less would put Apple at a strategic disadvantage.

The idea of using every strategic advantage even applies to recent reports that Apple has removed Samsung from the design process of the A-series chips that power iOS devices, relegating its mobile device competitor to simply manufacturing the chips and nothing more.

Ultimately, Cook's leadership at Apple so far appears to be a calculated effort to retain the company's prominence in the technology sector, the business world and on the international stage. That's different than Jobs, who offered a more passionate style of leadership. But Cook's take is equally successful and show how he is very adept at identifying and using each strategic advantage possible. That results is a more rational and reasoned company, one that clearly recognizes its power and potential and will use it effectively.

And that confidence will be very much on display this week.

Ryan Faas is a freelance writer and technology consultant specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. He has been a Computerworld columnist since 2003 and is a frequent contributor to Peachpit.com. Faas is also the author of iPhone for Work (Apress, 2009). You can find out more about him at RyanFaas.com and follow him on Twitter (@ryanfaas).

Read more about Tablets in Computerworld's Tablets Topic Center.



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