For weeks now, there've been a number people on Twitter and blogs expressing disappointment with Google over leaving out iPhone when it comes to many of their key properties. One such article, by social media rockstar Wayne Sutton, does a pretty good job of summing up the feelings of many in the iPhone community, but unfortunately, manages to completely get the wrong end of the stick. He seems to be under the impression that Google just doesn't feel like putting out apps for iPhone, forgetting that it's Apple themselves who are both the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper when it comes to what iPhone users get to run on their handsets.
Meanwhile, just yesterday Google "finally got around to" -- if you listen to the chatter on the Internet, anyway -- releasing their Latitude for iPhone app -- which is actually not a native app at all, but instead a web app that runs in Safari -- along with a lengthy article on their mobile blog which makes it crystal clear that it's Apple with whom we should be disappointed, not them.
We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.
I've been saying all along that it was Apple's 3-month+ wait approval queue, and/or the nature of Maps.app as a "core" app (that can only be updated via a firmware update) that's the holdup, but it never occurred to me that Apple wouldn't want Latitude on iPhone at all, which seems plainly clear now.
The brewing speculation suggests that Apple's $99-a-year MobileMe service, which has some location aspects to it now, is going to be expanding to more directly compete with Latitude, Loopt, and other such social/location apps, and thus doesn't want the early -- not to mention free -- competition from Google. This is purely speculation, but it's based on the past times that Apple has rejected iPhone apps with features that they themselves were planning to implement, so I'm going to place my bets squarely on that being truth. We'll have to wait and see.
This rejection now makes it pretty clear that the other native Google apps that people like Wayne are eagerly awaiting are simply never going to come. Sorry, Wayne :(
The upside to all of this, though, is that, judging by the comments on Google's Latitude for iPhone announcement post, iPhone users and developers alike are starting to become more aware of how bad an idea it is to tie themselves to a platform that's actively stifling the innovations its users want. How much time and money did Google spend writing a native Latitude app for iPhone that will never see the light of day? Now imagine it was your time and money down the crapper. Fun.
If you're dying for a native Latitude app on your iPhone, you shouldn't give up completely; Apple does have a bit of a track record of caving on stupid decisions under pressure from large vocal minority groups, so it's possible that they may one day let Google put a native maps app on iPhone. It's not very probable. There is only Zuul.
Now, in addition to sharing your location with your contacts via your phone's maps app and your iGoogle page, you can embed your Latitude location into any page, enabling ANY CRAZY PERSON to stalk you with near-realtime accuracy. The neat thing is it defaults to automatic zooming, using your positional accuracy to determine how detailed the map is. With GPS turned off, using cell towers for location info, it zooms out to a city view with a blue "somewhere in here" circle. Turn it on and it zooms down to street level. Very awesome.
It looks like this:
The map atop my blog has long been non-functional due to the hassle involved in keeping it updated, but IT LIVES ONCE MORE, thanks to the fact that my phone is always updating positions with Latitude. Thanks, Google!
If you're interested in using Latitude in this way, head on over to http://www.google.com/latitude/apps to get your embed code. Assuming, anyway, that your phone is compatible.
Here's a handy list:
* All Android phones.
* Most Java-enabled (J2ME) mobile phones.
* Palm devices with Palm OS 5 and above.
* All color BlackBerry devices.
* Windows Mobile devices with Windows Mobile 5.0 and above.
* All 3G Symbian devices.
* Not iPhones. Pbbt. (I'm guessing the 3.0 update will have Latitude support. Still -- suck it, iPhone.)