Apple’s decision to junk the iOS 6 YouTube app has prompted no small degree of surprise from iPhone and iPad owners, more used to platform upgrades adding functionality than removing it, but the multimedia outlook isn’t grim. Google is already working on a replacement app – which this time it will maintain and distribute itself – while Apple highlights that YouTube video playback already works within Safari and doesn’t demand the standalone software anyway. However, rather than just pushing Google’s services further to the periphery, there’s also the chance that Apple could move to fill the ensuing gap with a video offering of its own.
Those sticking with older versions of iOS – either by choice or because their Apple gadget won’t support the new OS – won’t have to worry. Phones and tablets on iOS 5 and earlier will keep the existing YouTube app, as Apple’s license with Google apparently continues to cover it; the player won’t be deleted remotely or disabled.
Meanwhile, as our own Chris Burns suggests, there’s the possibility of an altogether more interesting YouTube app from Google itself – and distributed through the App Store rather than as a pre-load – now that the game has changed. Meanwhile, Apple’s own rules about third-party apps not replicating standard functionality should now no longer affect other developers wanting to deliver YouTube content in more interesting ways.
Since Android’s arrival, the relationship between Apple and Google has been a tense one, and shifting the search giant’s wares from the core ROM and to a more optional status comes as little surprise. For the end-user, it means YouTube won’t be at their fingertips from the get-go, though it also means Google can update and improve the app more frequently.
What remains to be seen is whether Apple attempts to bite into YouTube’s market share with an iCloud-hosted video service of its own. We already know that iOS 6 will make sharing photos stored in the iCloud Photo Stream more straightforward, but a similar system for video sharing could significantly undermine how many people choose to upload straight to YouTube from their iPhone.
That would involve a significant server investment on Apple’s part, but then again the company is already including user-recorded video in among the iCloud backup (though not as part of Photo Stream). Making that available to share might be more a case of deciding how to monetize it so as to cover the bandwidth costs – something which Google has historically struggled with – than providing raw space to each iOS user.