Apple has enjoyed an incredible run since the launch of the iPhone — and one could argue since the launch of the first iPod, or even first iMac. Apple's been on a roll. But to keep the momentum going, Apple needs to have a strategy for what's next.
While I don't have a crystal ball (yet), Apple clearly has a strategy to ensure they are prisoners to no one. Jobs saw this happen to Apple when he had to cut a deal in the late 90's with Microsoft. Without Microsoft's promise to develop software for the Mac OS, the Mac platform was dead. That deal was life support for Apple, and I'm pretty sure Jobs said, "Never again."
With Apple's launching of Maps, it becomes obvious Apple fears Google having similar control of its destiny the way Microsoft did in the 90's. Plus, we have Steve Jobs quote from his biography,
"I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this".
Make no mistake, Apple Maps wasn't a Tim Cook initiative, it was Steve Jobs idea. Mapping is one of the most popular apps on smartphones. Looking at the cash Google piles up with mapping, if Apple could take away even a portion of that revenue, it would be a nice body blow to Google. Every dime Apple can usurp from Google's kingdom means more and more pressure to charge for Android development instead of keeping it open source. Eventually, forcing Google to charge for Android only builds a wall between them and their partners. Moreover, if Google charges for its Android software it puts Google in the direct cross hairs of Apple's legal team. So if Apple can right the ship and make Apple Maps work the way they it should, Apple is going to start the bleeding of Google.
However, the biggest way Apple can hurt Google is in the search game. Within the next 12-18 months Apple will have an army of about 500 million iOS devices deployed as well as nearly 100 million Macs running around out there. If Apple can launch is own search engine, and make it the default search just for their own products, it would be a huge boon for Apple and make Google quake. To make this plan work though, Apple Search has to work from Day 1. Apple Search can't be a beta or a "we'll make it better" service. No, it has to be as good if not better than Google's Search. Moreover with Apple's massive market share in mobile devices, removing Google as the default search engine is a big time problem for Google.
If my crystal ball were any clearer, I can almost see Steve smiling from beyond.