iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur showcase Apple’s latest shots at Google

Apple’s in a strange position vis-a-vis many of its biggest rivals. While the company has in the past counted many of the most prominent tech companies in the world—IBM, Microsoft, Intel—as rivals, in more recent years, it’s been strategically savvy about turning those erstwhile competitors into allies.

Which isn’t to say that the company doesn’t still have powerful foes. But the nature of the technology industry today is that none of these companies exist in a vacuum; there are so few at the highest of levels that ultimately all of them exist in a liminal state between ally and enemy. And for Apple, no company is more prominent in that frenemy zone than Google.

But with the latest updates to its software platforms unveiled at last month’s WWDC, Apple has once again taken plenty of shots at Google, rolling out features that compete directly with Mountain View’s own offerings, all while deftly steering around the places the companies continue to work together.

Found in translation

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises in the new initiatives undertaken by Apple this year is the focus on translation. It’s something that the company has only dabbled in previously, offering the ability for Siri to do some rudimentary lookup of words from other languages.

But in this year’s platform updates, translation is front and center. Not only does it have its own app—for which Apple emphasizes the private, on-device nature of translation—but it’s also built right into Safari, allowing surfers to instantaneously translate a webpage.

ios14 translate app Apple

iOS 14 has a new Translate app.

Google Translate has been the de facto translation standard on the web for years, and the company has continuously expanded it to include most of the world’s languages, as well as going beyond just typed translations to and spoken, handwritten, and even images as well.

By comparison, Apple’s current translation feature is meager. It only supports a handful of languages at present, rather than the more than 100 offered by Google Translate. But Apple—again taking a page from Google’s playbook—has billed the translation feature as a “beta” so far, reinforcing the idea that the company has only just started down this path. It seems unlikely that Apple will be able to challenge the stranglehold Google has on web translation, but if it continues to improve its on-device feature, it may be able to seize the default position for users of its own platforms.

On the map

In 2012, Apple made one of the biggest changes to its young mobile platform when it opted to discontinue its relationship with Google for the iPhone’s built-in mapping app, and instead rolled out its own replacement.