Google is reportedly putting the finishing touches on an iOS app that might replace the Chocolate Factory code that Apple so unceremoniously dropped with its iOS 6 operating system.
According to the Wall Street Journal sources with direct knowledge of the code say that the first builds of the completed application have been pushed out to beta testers. Earlier reports suggest the Chocolate Factory could be preparing a Christmas app gift for Cupertino, but it's the software equivalent of coal in the stocking.
"We believe Google Maps are the most comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use maps in the world. Our goal is to make Google Maps available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device, browser, or operating system," is all Google is willing to say at the moment.
Apple's decision to drop Google's mapping app and YouTube player hasn't proved to be an unqualified success. The poor quality of Apple's own-brand mapping app left many users frustrated, and may have cost iOS software chief Scott Forstall his job when CEO Tim Cook was forced to apologize after the Apple crap Map app flap.
Cupertino has cleared apps that use Google's data in the mapping section of the iTunes store, but it's by no means clear that it would allow the current arch-rival to compete directly. It's not outside the realm of possibility that it would call a halt to the app on some technical or compliance grounds.
On the other hand, it could be that Apple will take the high ground and let Google back in. Its own mapping system isn't ready yet and there's strong competition from Nokia on the horizon. Blocking the app would look bad to the regulators, and Apple doesn't need an investigation into its mobile business at this point in time.
As is traditional, and in this case perfectly reasonable, Apple refuses to comment on apps that may or may not be submitted.
El Reg would suggest that Cupertino take the more open route. Letting Google in now would fix a major customer complaint, allow breathing space to fix its own mapping software, and head off any more accusations that Apple is becoming the bully of the mobile apps market. ®