The controversy Apple has faced with its new Maps app has left many users pining for the days when the company and Google were close allies. Such was the case in January 2007 when Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone. In an era preceding the lucrative App Store and third-party iOS apps, Apple had chosen Google as a key partner for both Maps and search. Yet it almost didn't turn out that way. According to the New York Times, the inclusion of Google Maps on iPhone had been an eleventh-hour decision by Steve Jobs — the late Apple co-founder believed it would make for a good demonstration of the device's multitouch technology. And indeed it did. Jobs even used the new Maps app to prank Starbucks, drawing some of the biggest laughs during his now-iconic Macworld keynote.
Google Maps on iPhone almost didn't happen
But citing a former iPhone engineer, the Times reveals that Maps had never been part of the original plan and the on-stage demo Jobs gave was the result of three weeks of feverish work by two employees. Apple then "hastily" arranged a deal with Google to incorporate the company's mapping data. The alliance made sense at the time: Android was but a blip on the mobile industry's radar and Google CEO Eric Schmidt had a seat on Apple's board. Given the benefit of hindsight, many have since criticized the Schmidt appointment, with Daring Fireball's John Gruber calling it "the single biggest mistake in Jobs’s entire time at the helm."
Conflicts of interest aside, Apple likely wouldn't have been able to tackle maps on its own — at least not in 2007. On stage with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher of AllThingsD, Jobs didn't hide the fact his company was in unfamiliar territory. "We don't know how to do maps on the backend," he said. "We know how to do the best maps client in the world, but we don't know how to make the backend. So we partner with people who know how to do the backend."
Google would serve as that partner until earlier this year when Apple abruptly reneged on the agreement and pursued its own mapping project. By now we're well familiar with the aftermath of that decision, but it's interesting to hear how close the original iPhone came to shipping with no Maps at all.