Tech Watch: Apple and Google Work on iPhone, Gay Marriage

Ever since the T-Mobile G1 launch, Apple and Google have gotten into bed together to bring more Google features to the iPhone. The tech titans are also collaborating on pushing for equality of same-sex marriages.

In the midst of Google’s Android mobile phone rollout, the company seems to be in lockstep with its new competitor, iPhone-maker Apple. The companies have been collaborating to get more Google features on the iPhone than ever before, and they’ve also made headlines for both lobbying against ballot Proposition 8, which could amend California’s constitution to preclude gay marriage.

Apple seeded its new iPhone firmware to developers this week, Version 2.2 beta 2, both impressing and aggravating users everywhere. Apple clearly worked closely with Google to expand the Maps application, which now includes full-screen Street View in addition to the existing map and satellite views. The driving directions function now also includes options for pedestrian and public transit directions, subsuming detailed maps of several cities’ entire subway systems in the process.

Less encouraging are the features that are still missing from the device, even after long months of user feedback: copy/paste functionality hasn’t been added, and neither has landscape email viewing, or the ability to receive multimedia messages with photos or video. Another missing piece of the firmware: the ability for third party apps to receive "push" notifications, or run in the background.

Google has also released a new Google Earth application for the iPhone, available through iTunes, that brings the beloved mind-blowing software down to palm-sized (albeit somewhat WiFi-reliant) scale. The iPhone software is similar to its full-grown version, but adds multi-touch zooming and accelerometer functionality; turning the phone allows the on-screen view to pan and tilt. Google has also added Wikipedia and Panoramio entries overlaid on the maps, so that points of interest are presented nearby when the phone’s GPS locates itself on the map.

But Google and Apple aren’t just working on hardware and software — the two tech giants are also pushing a social agenda in California by donating $140,000 and $100,000 respectively to opponents of ballot Proposition 8. The amendment would legally define marriage as between a man and a woman, and would invalidate even existing same-sex marriages in California.

Apple currently allows equal rights and benefits to employees’ same-sex partners, and has made public statements of opposition to the amendment, which is being brought to a vote due to petitioning by evangelical activists and the Mormon Church. Google has made a similar public statement as Apple’s.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin said earlier this year, "While we respect the strongly held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 – we should not eliminate anyone's fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love."

Voting on Prop 8 will occur on November 4th, alongside the presidential ballot, ensuring that Prop 8 will see record voter turnout.

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