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The Apple-Google Grudge Match Intensifies


And comes at the expense of the consumer yet again.

If any two companies could benefit from a couples counselor, it would be Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG). The last few months have seen the ousting of Google CEO Eric Schmidt from Apple's board of directors (see Google CEO No Longer an Apple Insider), a banishment of several Google apps from the iTunes App Store, and no less than an FCC investigation for the two parties and AT&T (T) to boot.

Now, through some investigation by Computerworld's Seth Weintraub, evidence has been uncovered that Apple might be giving Google Maps the ol' heave-ho from its iPhone at some point in the future.

Back in July, Weintraub noted a Twitter entry posted by Fred Lalonde -- founder of the travel search engine In it, Lalonde relayed a piece of news which he described as "hush hush": Apple bought Placebase. The acquired company designs an app called Pushpin which, like Google's service, maps out the world in an interactive, graphical interface. Users have the ability to zoom and superimpose data over the map -- used in driving directions or searching for nearby businesses.

In the same tweet, Lalonde links out to a May 2008 article on GigaOM entitled How Placebase Survived Google Maps. How prescient.

With the July tidbit not making headlines since then, Weintraub sought out info on Placebase's CEO Jarod Waldman. The kicker: His LinkedIn profile states that he's no longer the head of Placebase but now a part of the Geo Team at Apple -- proving the indelible LinkedIn has more purpose than just making business connections (see Are You Either LinkedIn -- or Locked Out?).

At this point, no information has been released on Apple's Geo Team, but based on the name and the key member, one could assume its intent is to replace the Google Maps feature from iPhones and iPods. Then again, it could also mean a reconciling collaboration.

But in light of Apple's refusal to include the location-aware Google Latitude in its App Store -- and Google's involvement with competing smartphones -- a satisfied coexistence between the two competitors would have to cover plenty of baggage.

And it's a shame that this grudge match has to be at the expense of the consumer. Google's integration with the iPhone was a seamless joy for the user, especially when a workaround allowed for push GMail on the iPhone. Systematically removing Google apps from the iPhone due to a bickering digital turf war would be devastating.
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