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Google Maps' return to iOS may not be permanent, says analyst

December 14, 2012 01:16 PM ET

Many mobile analysts see mapping as a smartphone cornerstone, something no device can do without.

Gottheil knocked Apple not for building its own mapping technology, but for releasing it prematurely and not letting users optionally retain Google's in iOS 6. "This got Apple into the game for maps for itself," said Gottheil. "It has to be there. But pushing Google off the platform, that would help Apple only a little right now."

By removing Google Maps from the iPhone and iPad, Apple may have affected Google's revenue to some very small degree. But there's more than money at stake at the moment.

"Every customer using Google Maps is grist for Google," said Gottheil. "The more you use is, the more they know about you and locations. But maps haven't yet become a very substantial source of revenue, as Google and I once thought."

Mapping technology, combined with the user's location -- an integral part of both Google's and Apple's apps -- allows for location-based advertising, to, say, display an ad for a nearby restaurant only when the user is in the area.

"I still think that location-based advertising will be very valuable at some point," Gottheil said. "But it's taking time to develop."

In the meantime, the competition between Google and Apple is a good deal for customers. Gottheil called it a "net win" for consumers.

The competition has already resulted in a major upgrade to Google Maps' feature set on iOS. Before this September, Maps did not provide voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, something Apple brought to iOS 6. The new Google Maps, however, includes voiced directions.

"Now there's competition to deliver the best maps," Gottheil said. "That's all good for us."

covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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