Apple’s gradual extrication from Google services is having a knock-on effect in international markets — and Google’s competitors elsewhere. In Russia, the local search leader Yandex is now powering Apple’s mapping service on iOS6 — and TechCrunch understands from sources close to the situation Yandex and Apple are working on an even bigger deal, in which Yandex would become the default search on the mobile version of Safari. In both the case of maps and search, Yandex is/would be replacing Google.
The appearance of Yandex as the company powering Apple’s Maps service in Russia was first discovered by Russian tech bloggers (here’s one, and here’s another). The Yandex integration is appearing in the Gold Master version of iOS6 used by developers; it will be widely available to Russian users on September 19. Yandex is not commenting on the matter.
Yandex’s geosearch API works like this: When users are looking for details on Apple’s Maps service, Yandex’s geosearch API powers that that search, providing information about restaurants, shops, streets, and so on. If a user wants more detail on a place, there is a Yandex button at the bottom of the listing; clicking through takes the user to the Yandex.Map app — Yandex’s standalone native mapping app. If a user doesn’t have that app installed, they are redirected to the App Store to download it.
Yandex’s mapping API works for all users in Russia, as well as those who use Apple Maps elsewhere to source mapping information about Russia.
From what I understand, talking to sources, this is a landmark deal on two levels.
First: it’s a sign of more collaboration between Apple and companies (who are not Google) that are strong in search in specific markets. It’s part of a wider move by the company to move away from some Google services in its core iOS6 product as well. That has seen Apple forge ahead with its own mapping product, and remove apps like YouTube as a default app on iOS6.
Second: these partnerships can be seen as a blueprint for how Apple will look to improve Maps and other services as it continues to develop them independently. Some have pointed out how Maps in iOS6 so far is still lacking; this is a sign of how Apple wants to improve that.
It also helps Yandex shore up against Google in its home market. Yandex this quarter said that it accounts for just over 60% of all searches in Russia, but that’s actually down from previous years. Meanwhile, Google’s presence is gradually growing stronger; it accounts for about 22% of searches in Russia today.
Apple has long been murmured to be forging stronger partnerships with local search players like Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China. In the latter market, some believe that Baidu is close to cutting a deal to become the default search provider in Apple’s iOS version of Safari. For now, it looks like it is still only one of several options, although there is another sweetener to that relationship: Apple is apparently getting a cut of Baidu search revenues on iOS, according to Baidu VP Wang Jing (via Bloomberg).