By Poornima Gupta
SAN FRANCISCO, June 8 When Apple Inc (AAPL.O)
kicks off its annual conference for software developers on
Monday, all the power players in the Apple universe will be on
hand, save the one that is in many ways driving the agenda:
Google Inc (GOOG.O).
More than ever, the consumer electronics juggernaut finds
itself in a pitched battle with the online search giant -- in
smartphones, cloud computing and the never-ending competition
for the hearts and minds of the best software developers.
Apple on Monday is expected to announce its own mapping
application, displacing Google Maps as one of the most-valued
features on the iPhone. It will unveil closer integration of its
iPhone apps and its iCloud storage service, the latest riposte
in its battle with Google's Android smartphone software.
It may promote the latest in Siri, the voice interface that
the company thinks can continue to set the iPhone and the iPad
apart from the Android pack.
And there will likely be a new line of Macintosh laptops too
-- underscoring the leverage that a full line of hardware
-- underscoring the leverage that a full line of hardware
products can bring to what is mainly a software war with Google.
Apple is looking to differentiate its mobile devices from
Google's Android by further enticing consumers deeper into its
app ecosystem, Carolina Milanesi, Gartner Research analyst,
"It's all about loyalty and basically leveraging the
opportunity of selling more to them," she said. "I don't think
the consumers in the mass market are necessarily tied into the
Android ecosystem in the same way that consumers on the Apple
Battling in many arenas, the rivals employ different
weapons. Apple’s vice-like grip on its ecosystem--with the
closely managed app store and its seamless integration with the
hardware--stands in sharp contrast with Google’s free-for-all
The open system approach, reminiscent of Microsoft's hugely
successful strategy of creating standard-setting software that
runs on a variety of hardware, has allowed Android to capture
the market lead in smartphones (albeit with nothing close to
Apple's profit margins.)
Android has also helped to create several potent hardware
rivals to Apple. Samsung Electronics' (005930.KS) Android-driven
Galaxy SIII is drawing favorable comparisons to iPhone and
Amazon.com Inc's (AMZN.O) cheaper Kindle Fire is challenging
Apple in tablets and digital content.
Apple's expected move to replace Google Maps with its own
mapping application is a particularly dramatic example of how
the rivalry between the companies has been evolving.
Google has invested huge sums in its mapping technology over
the years, and about half of its map traffic now comes from
iPhones and iPads. Among other things, the traffic from those
devices reveals valuable location data that helps improve the
mapping service and provide features, like real-time traffic
Apple has spent three years preparing to take mapping back.
It has integrated technology from acquisitions such as 3D
mapping company C3 Technologies, Canadian startup Poly9 Group
and mapping service Placebase, ISI analyst Brian Marshall said.
"As Apple builds out its Siri service, they build out the
iCloud infrastructure and more capability into its operating
system, location data is going to become important," said Sterne
Agee analyst Shaw Wu.
"This could help their advertising business too."
In what was seen as a pre-emptive move against Apple's
upcoming maps service, Google on Wednesday showed off its own
mapping capabilities, including soon-to-be-launched 3D features.
While Google executives avoided any comment on the
possibility of being ousted as a default service on Apple
devices, one executive said the integration with Google's search
engine provides a mapping serving that is far more useful than a
product that simply uses a "geocoder."[nL1E8H6FCX]
Apple began to use its own geocoder -- technology that uses
geographic coordinates to create a digital map -- for the
Google-based maps on its smartphones late last year, a move that
was seen as a precursor to Apple using its own map software.
Another software upgrade that fans and developers are hoping
for is Siri, a popular voice-enabled personal assistant service
that Google has yet to match.
The service could come out of its beta testing phase and
show up on the iPad when Apple unveils iOS6 or the next version
of its mobile operating software.
Siri, which has been plagued with connectivity and other
issues, is still in beta test version.
Apple's global war on Google and Android in the courts is
one sign of how seriously it's taking the potential threat. The
consumer device giant is seeing limited success, though, in
courtrooms for various patent infringement cases it has against
Apple said this week it is mulling a legal order to stop the
U.S. launch of Samsung Galaxy S III phone later this month.
Samsung is one of the biggest Android phone manufacturers.
In another of the many lawsuits worldwide pitting Apple
against Motorola Mobility, now owned by Google, a federal judge
canceled a scheduled trial as neither could prove damages. That
decision particularly hurts Apple because the iPhone maker was
seeking an injunction barring the sale of Android products, said
Brian Love, a professor at Stanford Law School.
“The Android side is likely thrilled to simply have the case go
away,” Love said.
MACBOOK REDESIGN IN THE WORKS
Where Apple has the upper hand is in its hardware --
groundbreaking in design, vastly popular with consumers for its
ease of use.
The re-designed MacBook laptops to hit the stage next week
are expected to include high-definition screens and Intel’s
(INTC.O) Ivy Bridge cutting-edge processors. Some even expect
the iPad's "retina" display to show up on the MacBook line.
This would be Apple's first big redesign of the MacBook Pro
since mid-2009. With the new line-up, it hopes to fend off
budding competition from rival manufacturers who are pushing a
spate of new, thinner laptops called "Ultrabooks."
Windows 8, a new version of Microsoft's (MSFT.O) flagship
operating system that runs on tablet computers as well as PCs
will bolster PC makers ability to offer premier computers rival
ling Apple's MacBook line.
Already, about 20 touch-enabled ultrabook designs with
various styles of foldable, detachable or sliding keyboards
running the new Windows 8 system is in the pipeline.
The MacBook line generated 13 percent, or about $5 billion,
of Apple's fiscal second-quarter revenue. Unit sales of the
aging line-up were up 7 percent from the previous year but were
down 23 percent sequentially.
Whatever the case, Apple fans and partners can look forward
to a fairly action-packed week.
"Apple is very serious about getting far in front of Windows
8 and Ultrabooks," Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes said. But
"software and services will be the focus, with major
enhancements to Maps, iCloud and Siri, which developers and
users can take advantage of."
(Editing by Edwin Chan and Jonathan Weber; Editing by Kenneth
((email@example.com)(415 677 2536)(Reuters
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Keywords: APPLE SOFTWARE/
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