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YouTube disappearance from iOS 6 signals deepening divide between Apple, Google

When Apple?s newest version of its iOS mobile operating software launches this fall, a native YouTube app will be conspicuously missing, suggesting that the divide between Apple and Google is getting bigger.

The latest beta version of iOS 6 no longer contains the YouTube app although users can still access YouTube in the Safari browser and a new YouTube app from Google is expected to be on the Apple App Store soon. However, the news of the YouTube app?s disappearance taken in conjunction with Apple?s decision to no longer support Google Maps in iOS points to the increasing competition between the two companies.

?Fundamentally, I don't think much has changed,? said Carl Howe, vice president of research and data sciences at Yankee Group, Boston. ?If iPhone owners want a dedicated YouTube app, they'll be able to download about a hundred of them from the Apple App Store.

?What this does mean, though, is that the Google Android and Apple ecosystems are probably going to diverge more from now on; Apple will no longer play ?Mr. Nice Guy? to what has now become its biggest competitor,? he said.

A new YouTube path
The YouTube app had been a part of the iPhone since the device made its debut in 2007.

What is not clear is whether the move was precipitated by Apple or Google. It could be that Apple decided not to renew its license for the YouTube app.

It is possible that Google may not have granted Apple a renewal as it focuses on monetizing YouTube in other ways.

?Google is taking a different path with YouTube and providing a better, more monetizable experience with its own Android app and on the mobile Web,? said Noah Elkin, principal analyst at eMarketer, New York.

?It actually might be more beneficial from Google?s perspective to monetize YouTube, even on iOS devices, through the mobile Web,? he said.

The mobile front
The YouTube development follows Apple announcement in June that the iOS Maps app will no longer get its map data from Google.

These are not the first signs of a conflict between Google and Apple as they compete for dominance in the mobile category. In 2009, Eric Schmidt, who was then CEO of Google, resigned from Apple?s board.

Additionally, the late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs reportedly expressed a desire to take down Google?s Android OS.

Apple has also gone after several Android handset makers claiming patent infringement.

?This is another skirmish in a much longer simmering conflict between two of the largest digital giants,? Mr. Elkin said.

?The battle is for the dominance of the digital experience everywhere from desktop to mobile,? he said. ?Whereas the desktop was the location where many of these conflicts played out in the previous decade, in the present and in the future, these battles will largely take place in and around mobile.?

However, while Google and Apple are clashing on some fronts, in others they are still partners.

For example, Google is still the default search provider for iOS devices and the search activity of iOS users generates a lot of revenue for Google. It seems unlikely that either will walk away from this arrangement anytime soon.

?With Apple being a company that prides itself on providing the best poss8ble user experience, it seems unlikely Apple would drop a service for competitive reasons unless it were able to provide an equally compelling experience in its place,? Mr. Elkin said. ?In other words, you don?t get rid of Google search just because Google is a primary competitor in other arenas.?

It is not clear how much of an impact the removal of the YouTube app from iOS will have on the video site as mobile technology has evolved to the point where streaming video on mobile device via a browser is possible.

Back in 2007, Apple built a native YouTube app to stream video using an international video compression standard so it could avoid the need for Flash, which the iPhone did not support.

?I?m not surprised to see Apple drop the YouTube native app in iOS 6,? Yankee Group?s Mr. Howe said.

?When Apple launched its iPhone in 2007, it needed an app for YouTube because YouTube mostly streamed its video using Adobe?s proprietary Flash software, and the iPhone didn?t support Flash,? he said.

?Today, most smartphone browsers included Apple?s Safari support HTML5 streaming video, which supports H.264 codecs, making Apple?s dedicated YouTube app redundant.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York