Google Latitude released for the iPhone...browser

Yesterday's introduction of Google Latitude for iPhone could have been a big deal if the product being announced was actually an application. Instead, Google's social Geolocation product is a Web app that must be run from inside Safari. As such, it's being described as toothless, crippled and worthless by reviewers all over the Web today.

Why was it released as a Web app when it has been available as a standalone app on all the major mobile platforms for five months? Google has been quite upfront about that, saying, "We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a Web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles."

Google's announcement of this Web app was almost apologetic, with Google Mobile Product Manager Mat Balez saying, "Unfortunately, since there is no mechanism for applications to run in the background on iPhone (which applies to browser-based Web apps as well), we're not able to provide continuous background location updates in the same way that we can for Latitude users on Android, Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile. Nevertheless, your location is updated every time you fire up the app and then continuously updated while the app is running in the foreground. And, of course, you can check in on where your friends are, so we think there's plenty of fun to be had with Latitude."

Skyhook Wireless -- the company that developed the iPhone's Wi-Fi location system -- said that as of July 10, there were more than 2,800 location-aware apps for the iPhone. Unfortunately, without true multitasking, most of these will remain unable to provide location data as accurate as the rest of the mobile world.

As PC World blogger David Coursey said today, "My smug iPhone superiority has been pierced and now I have to make excuses to my friends who use Latitude on platforms that support it properly."

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