Why does Google build apps for its rival Apple's iPhone?

The Week
After Apple's own maps app infamously failed, Google has made its Maps app available again for Apple's iOS6 operating system.

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After Apple's own maps app infamously failed, Google has made its Maps app available again for Apple's iOS6 operating system.

Why help a key competitor? Two words: Advertising and data

There isn't any other way to say it: Apple and Google really don't like each other. Apple CEO Steve Jobs vowed to destroy the Google geniuses behind the Android operating system for allegedly stealing the basic mechanics of the iPhone. Apple and Google-partner Samsung are constantly at one another's throats over patents. And most recently new Apple CEO Tim Cook gave two of Google's most popular products — Google Maps and YouTube — the boot from iOS 6.

Then the unthinkable happened: Fans started turning on Apple. Even the most gushy tech critic had to admit that Apple's replacement for Google Maps was a train wreck, a rare blight on the company's otherwise stainless track record (a failure, notes Zara Kessler at Bloomberg, which ironically might ultimately benefit Apple).

Why, then, would Google throw its chief rival a life preserver this week and deliver Google Maps to iOS — as well as handing over Chrome and an awesome new Gmail app in recent weeks? Two main reasons: 

1. Potential advertising: "Google doesn't make money off of Android which is open source; they make money when people use Google services," Joel Spolsky, CEO of Stack Overflow, tells Wired. Google Maps on the iPhone doesn't have ads yet, although the Android version does. In the end, Google's primary concern is to get its services in front of as many eyeballs as possible — even if those eyeballs are peering into an iPhone.

SEE MORE: Steve Jobs' mysterious iMac-controlled yacht

2. More data with which to make its products better: Google Maps is every marketer's dream. Mapping software gives them invaluable consumer data to work with, like the city you live in, the stores you shop at, the restaurants you frequent, where you get your coffee, and much, much more. "Google needs the traffic that iOS users bring," says Casey Newton at CNET. Those millions of iPhone owners unknowingly feed Google the analytics it needs to make Google Maps the superior, celebrated product it's become. The same goes for Chrome. And Gmail.  

And "Google is hardly the first company to aggressively support a rival platform for selfish reasons," says Ryan Tate at Wired

Microsoft was a strong backer of Apple's Macintosh for decades because its core business was selling applications [Word, Excel, etc.], not Microsoft's competing operating system Windows… Google's willingness to ship iOS apps could look smarter as time goes on. The company trounces Apple when it comes to all things cloud, not just maps and e-mail; its social network, search engine, and highly optimized data centers could give its iOS apps an even bigger edge in the coming years.

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