Apple has had a fairly comfortable relationship with Google in the past—CEO Eric Schmidt had a place on Apple's board, Google is the default search for its Safari browser, and Google Maps and YouTube are first-class applications on the iPhone. Apple has even created a maps API that allows iPhone developers to easily include Google Map data directly into their own apps. However, earlier this year Apple bought a small startup that created its own Google Maps competitor. The purchase may be a sign that growing competition between the two companies—which resulted in the recent resignation of Schmidt from Apple's board—could be causing a rift in the once-friendly alliance.
The mapping company Apple bought is called Placebase, and its CEO is now part of what is called the “Geo Team” at Apple.
Google rivals Yahoo and Microsoft already offer their own online maps, and there's also MapQuest, which is owned by AOL. Of Google's rivals, Bing Maps (from Microsoft) is perhaps the best, with its Birds Eye View imagery a standout feature.
More competition would be a good thing… when there are alternatives to Google, users have choices and can avoid placing all their data in the grasp of one company.