Google to showcase upgrades to digital maps

SAN FRANCISCO – Google is expected to unveil the latest improvements to its digital maps amid reports that the navigation service is about to lose its prized perch on Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

The upgrades are scheduled to be shown off Wednesday at a San Francisco event that Google is billing as “the next dimension” for the world’s most popular digital mapping service. The presentation will be handled by Brian McClendon, a Google vice-president who works on the mapping service.

Google Inc. is trying to give people more reasons to use its maps at the same time that it’s facing a potential challenge from a bigger company in Apple Inc.

Both The Wall Street Journal and a technology blog called 9to5 have reported that Apple next week will preview changes to its mobile operating system that will drop Google Maps as a featured application. Apple plans to replace Google’s mapping service with an alternative that it has been secretly patching together from a series of recent acquisitions. The Journal’s story, published Tuesday, cited unnamed people familiar with Apple’s strategy.

If Apple ousts Google Maps as a built-in option on the iPhone and iPad, it would be the latest fissure between two former allies. Their relationship has been degenerating into a bitter rivalry since Google’s 2008 release of its Android software to compete against Apple’s iPhone. Since then, both companies have increasingly been encroaching on each other’s turf.

Google’s mapping service has been a featured app in Apple’s mobile operating system since the iPhone’s debut five years ago. Processing the mobile mapping requests from users of Apple’s devices provided Google with valuable insights into people’s whereabouts and preferences. That, in turn, helped Google sell more ads to local businesses.