Google announced on its Mobile Blog that it will launch its mobile social tool Latitude on the iPhone. It took a little while to do this simply because it prioritized other mobile platforms that were better suited to the product such as Android and BlackBerry. In other words, the iPhone’s lack of “background” functionality made (makes) it not the best fit for Latitude.
This is the same reason Loopt doesn’t work as well on the iPhone — it only connects to the server and reveals your location to friends (the product’s core feature), when you have it open. Many other products that thrive on background functionality (read: constant connectivity) have done the same by opting for — or at least prioritizing — other platforms. Glympse is one example we’ve seen recently (and will demo at our DMS conference).
The other interesting thing about the app is that it won’t be a native app but will instead be browser based, running through the iPhone’s Safari browser (Web app). This is the other reason it took so long to be brought to the iPhone: Only recently (iPhone 3.0 software) was Safari granted the location awareness previously reserved for native apps. As we reported last week, Google has already put this in play on Google.com on the iPhone.
True, it could have launched Latitude earlier on the iPhone via native app, in order to get this location functionality. But because of the aforementioned “prioritization” of platforms, and its general iPhone app strategy, it held off. That strategy is simply that it is building Web-based apps rather than native apps whenever possible. This is something we’ve discussed before, and has recently been a major talking point of Google VP of Strategy Vic Gundotra.
The Web app route for Latitude also came down to an Apple decision, as mentioned in the announcement. But despite the lack of constant connectivity on the iPhone, it will still see meaningful traction because it is Google. It could also shed more light on some of the other mobile/local/social apps like Loopt. This could either generate net positive demand by giving the new genre more mainstream awareness. Or it will simply take share away from smaller players.
But above all else, it’s a good move for Google because it can generate an audience and experiment with the product before background functionality is finally brought to the iPhone (still unknown when). Then it could really take off.