Are These 3 Issues Real Problems For Apple?
Chad is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
I know what you may be thinking, yet another article about how bad Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) new Maps application is. However, I felt the need to bring a little reality to the discussion. It's amazing how if you hear the same thing over and over from multiple smart people it begins to sound like the truth. The problem is, sometimes a very loud minority can make it sound like there's a problem for the majority of customers. Since there have been multiple complaints about the way that Apple released iOS and some of its features, let's take a look at some of the common "problems” and see if they are really problems at all.
Three concerns about Apple that have been brought up multiple times were outlined again in an article by Travis Hoium of The Motley Fool. He noted that critics are saying the company is, "picking fights with rivals, and leaving customers in an awkward position going forward." Travis also mentioned that the company is taking over more of their ecosystem by eliminating YouTube and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Maps from iOS 6. Last but not least, he also said that iCloud isn't as "friendly with other devices" in comparison to offerings by Samsung. Let me bring a different perspective to each of these issues.
“Picking Fights With Rivals”
If Apple picking fights with rivals is a problem, then shareholders should beg for more problems like these. Have we forgotten the whole “I'm a PC” commercial series? Apple so brilliantly played this series that the company created a separation of PC users as fools and Mac users as cool and hip. Since these advertisements, Apple has basically stuck to a tried and true method of advertising. The company promotes what its products do, instead of trying to hype their technical specifications. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that Apple at some point would try to cut ties with Google. I'm certain you wouldn't see Android systems promoting proprietary Apple software, so why would Google expect differently?
When it comes to YouTube this “issue” is really a non issue. Customers with an iPhone have a YouTube app that they can download. As one of the top apps for iPhone, this is actually a win for Google as according to the reviews it's “full of ads,” but “better than the original app.” This also allows Google to update the apps capabilities whenever they want, as opposed to waiting for an iOS upgrade. While some are “waiting impatiently for the iPad version” there is actually less of a need for a separate app for iPad. It makes sense that Google may produce a YouTube app for the iPad, but YouTube works perfectly fine inside the Safari browser. The concern that this feature isn't built into iOS is overblown. Keep in mind that Netflix's app is one of the most popular in the app store and it has never been built into iOS.
Apple is Taking Over More of Their Ecosystem
The short version of this problem is, Apple is taking over more of their ecosystem and you can expect more of the same from each of their competitors. Let's look at the field when it comes to competing ecosystems. Apple uses iTunes to centralize the user experience across iPad, iPhone, and iPod users. Apple uses iCloud to tie the data for these devices together. Apple also now is promoting its own Maps app instead of a competitor's. What is so different from their competition? Google uses Google Play to tie together the experience between Android devices. Google uses YouTube and its own Google Maps instead of a competitors. Google has developed Google Drive and Google Docs for documents and files. Do you see a difference between what Apple is doing and what Google does? I don't either. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is trying to do the same using Windows, Office, Windows Phone, and Skydrive to unify their users experience. The Microsoft experience is expected to become even more unified with the release of Windows 8 in less than a month.
The fact that Apple developed Apple Maps shouldn't be a surprise. While I know there have been some problems with Apple Maps, it's not as though there are no other options until Apple perfects this app. The company suggests several companies as suitable substitutes. In fact, the biggest winner from this problem probably won't be Google. The biggest winners could actually be two of Google's direct competitors. AOL's (NYSE: AOL) Mapquest app is one possible winner. This app is free, offers turn-by-turn, and is rated 4 out of 5 stars in the iTunes store. In a particular surprise, Microsoft could come out as a winner as well. In no doubt a shot at Google, Apple suggests the Bing app as a potential substitute for mapping as well. This app offers not only maps, but also deals and search options as well. The bottom line is, by not releasing a Google Maps app, Google might end up being the loser and not Apple.
iCloud Isn't Friendly:
I don't believe this problem is an issue for most users either. Travis in his article specifically mentioned file sharing as being more difficult with iCloud. I would just say it really depends on how you share files. For users that are already using Apple's document creation suite, iCloud makes their lives easier. Apple's own productivity apps are the number 3, 8, and 11th most popular paid apps for the iPhone. Based on this, I would say users are fine with what iCloud offers. For those who choose to take advantage of other productivity suites, most include some type of integration with Dropbox, Box.net, Evernote, Google Drive, and more. Let's face it, most users aren't buying an iPhone or iPad expecting to do heavy document creation. With cloud services all offering apps for users, sharing files is nearly the same no matter which device you use. What iCloud does brilliantly is keep contacts, calendars, notes, and bookmarks synced. It requires one setup and then the user never has to think about it again. This sounds pretty friendly to me.
The bottom line here is, Apple needs to focus on making great devices and choosing which apps to include. If an app is not in the company's core competency, than pointing customers in the direction of others makes sense. Saying that Apple Maps is a step down from Google Maps might be correct today, but aren't we comparing apples (sorry I had to) to oranges? Wouldn't it be more fair to compare the first release of Google Maps? To say that YouTube not being built in is a major blow to Apple is just foolish (small f). Users can still use YouTube so nothing has been lost. The fact that users have to take one additional step to get a YouTube app isn't that big of a deal. There are tons of apps that have never been built into iOS that are doing just fine. In fact, 9 of the top 10 paid apps on iPhone have nothing to do with built in iOS features. If you keep things in perspective and look at what is happening, you can see that some of these “issues” are not actually issues after all.
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MHenage owns shares of Apple and Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, Imax, Intel, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.