The next version of Apple’s iOS will no longer feature YouTube as a native app. Are we seeing an escalation of hostilities between Apple and Google? Guy Daniels reports.
At first sight this is “so what?” news. Apple will no longer be featuring the YouTube app as a native integral part of its iOS when version 6 appears later this year. For the first time since the iPhone appeared back in 2007, users will have to visit the app store and download a YouTube app if they want to access the service.
But there’s more to it than that. Apple and Google control the lion’s share of the mobile operating system market, and competition between them is getting fiercer. When iOS 6 becomes public next month (hopefully), not only will it not include YouTube but it will not feature Google Maps. Instead, Apple is unveiling its new home-grown mapping and location service. That’s going to hurt Google.
So, did Apple ‘kill’ the YouTube app? Or was it the other way round? Who knows what the licensing terms were between the two companies – those details certainly aren’t being made public. The relationship between the two companies has certainly cooled of late, and it may well be that it was a mutual decision.
Let’s not forget that the native iOS YouTube app doesn’t feature advertising – which after all is Google’s main play. It’s also been woefully under-developed of late. You just have to use the Android version to see what’s missing.
Both these factors could change once the app is cut loose.
The news was broken by the 9to5 Mac website, which managed to get this comment from Google: “We are working with Apple to ensure we have the best possible YouTube experience for iOS users.”
The Verge extracted further confirmation, this time from Apple itself:
“Our license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended, customers can use YouTube in the Safari browser and Google is working on a new YouTube app to be on the App Store.”
However, the native YouTube app will still be available to users of iOS 5. Sounds more and more like Apple are using the new software release to break free of the licence deal with Google.
So what’s next? The obvious answer is search. Apple’s iOS devices still rely on Google’s search engine, and the money it gets from Google for the privilege. But in return, Apple is directing revenue from iOS search right back to the Googleplex – some say Google makes more revenue from the Apple search deal than it does from sales of Android phones.
According to calculations made by the Guardian newspaper, Google’s total Android revenue since the launch of the first handsets at the end of 2008 through to the end of 2011 was $543 million. It also suggests that Apple devices generated more than four times as much revenue for Google as its own handsets in the same period.
In March this year, Macquarie analyst Ben Schachter noted that Apple received $1 billion from Google last year for the privilege of being the default search engine. Although let’s face it, Apple doesn’t really need the money – vast as it is – surely Microsoft would match that if it could displace its rival. Some other factor is keeping Google as the search engine of choice.
True, iOS users can alter their Safari settings to make Yahoo or Bing the web search engine. But how many people bother with that (or even know it’s an option)? Google is the default setting, so in the vast majority of devices it remains that way. What would it take for Apple to change this default to Yahoo or Bing? Apparently it almost happened in 2010 when discussions were held with Microsoft to look into making Bing the new default.
As Apple starts to form closer relationships with Twitter and Facebook, integrating the social media services into its operating systems, it may want to square the circle with search. Bing also has relationships with Twitter and Facebook – Google does not. Perhaps if Microsoft can improve the Bing experience, then it will receive Apple’s favours.
Or not. Perhaps Apple is banking on its Siri voice service as a replacement for keypad-orientated search? Whilst it’s still very early days for Siri, there is a big push to develop a robust voice interface. The only problem is, it will be many years before voice can displace text input.
Today, Google lost its native iOS YouTube app. By this time next year, the odds are that it will also see its search engine relegated to a secondary role. Then we’ll see the Apple-Google mobile battle really heat up…
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