Apple will not include a YouTube app in iOS 6, the next operating system for the iPhone and iPad, the company confirmed yesterday.
The app has been an integral part of iOS since the 2007 launch of the first-generation iPhone. YouTube is owned by rival Google.
"Our license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended," said Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller on Monday.
Instead, users with new iOS 6-powered devices, or those with older hardware who upgrade, can view YouTube videos in either Safari, iOS's built-in browser, or in an app that Google will distribute through the App Store, Muller said.
The striking of YouTube marks the second departure of a major Google-based component from iOS -- Apple will replace Google Maps with its own mapping technology in iOS 6 -- and is yet another signal of the companies' ratcheting rivalry.
"These two corporations, who clearly don't like each other, are in intense competition," said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research. "Each is protecting its own core business."
Although Apple unveiled iOS 6 in June at its annual developers conference, and has seeded programmers with preliminary builds, it has not named a release date. Recent rumors have pegged Sept. 12 as a possible launch date for both iOS 6 and a new iPhone.
Gottheil took Apple's explanation for removing YouTube from iOS at face value.
"If, in fact, there will be a replacement [for Apple's YouTube app], that sounds like it should be good for users," said Gottheil, noting that Apple has rarely updated its own app. Theoretically, Google would be motivated to refresh the app more frequently, and to regularly add new features.
But both companies clearly had good reasons for not continuing the relationship.
Apple's move may have been part of its strategy to minimize revenue flowing from its customers to its rival, although the decision could have originated on its own spreadsheet, Gottheil said.
"It's pretty clear that YouTube is pretty important to Apple, but at some point they may have decided that they just didn't want to pay the money [for the license]," Gottheil said.
It's also possible, said Gottheil, that there were discussions within Google about withholding YouTube from iOS as a way to damage Apple's platform. He suspected that wasn't the case. "The two are in constant conflict, but Google receives a lot of revenue from iOS users," said Gottheil, talking about the income Google earns by showing ads to iPhone and iPad owners through its search service.
Google pays Apple a reported $1 billion for the pride-of-place spot Google occupies as the default search engine in iOS.
The separation of YouTube and iOS will also allow Google to insert ads into its YouTube app to better monetize the service; Apple's app did not display ads. Some have speculated that that would have been motivation enough for Google to deny Apple a license extension, or play such hardball that Apple declined.
Apple and Google were once close collaborators. Eric Schmidt, at the time Google's CEO, joined Apple's then-CEO Steve Jobs on stage at the iPhone's 2007 introduction, and served on Apple's board until 2009. Now they are fierce competitors locked in court cases, including one where Apple faces Samsung, the biggest seller of Android-based smartphones, before a California jury.
Of course, users will now have to seek out and install the YouTube app themselves, Gottheil noted. "It'll will be interesting to see how this affects [iOS] usage of YouTube," he said.
The YouTube app will not be removed from iOS 5. Current iPhone and iPad owners who choose not to upgrade to iOS 6, or who cannot do so because of hardware requirements, will be able to continue watching the videos through Apple's app.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is [email protected].
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