Ever since William Hewlett and David Packard began selling their strange-looking oscilloscope almost 75 years ago, Silicon Valley engineers have been viewed with an almost mythic reverence.
In the 1980s and '90s, they were semiconductor and PC designers with calculators tucked in the pockets of their short-sleeve shirts, taking computing power to the masses.
Today, they're clad in hooded sweatshirts during all-night hacking sessions, creating the next generation of software features for social-media users.
As the tech industry exploded in the past half-century, engineers became pop-culture heroes, feted at business schools and portrayed on TV as cunning crimefighters.
Yet, even as geek culture has gone mainstream, the work done by engineers at large technology companies might now matter less than it used to.
The battle over smartphone mapping applications in the United Kingdom shows why.
Data released recently by market researcher ComScore shows Apple was able to turn the tables on Google in the market for mobile map apps there in less than a year.
In October 2012, 71% of iPhone users in the U.K. used Google Maps for navigation, according to ComScore data, which was reported by the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper.
But by September of this year, more than two-thirds of iPhone users there had switched to using Apple's own map app.
Apple now controls 60% of the iPhone mapping software market, while Google's share on that device in the U.K. has fallen to less than 20%.
The trend mirrors one reported last month, which showed Google lost more than 20 million map users in the U.S.
Apple was able to take massive market share not by out-engineering the Internet search giant. The first version of Apple's product drew so many complaints that it help cost the top Apple executive in charge of mobile software his job.
No, the iconic tech giant won the battle simply by making its own software the default choice on its own phone, a move that required only a minor change in a small amount of computer code.
But the change is significant in the mobile ad market.
Now, whenever locals or tourist visitors use an iPhone to navigate anywhere from Buckingham Palace to Stonehenge, it will be Apple and its partners -- not Google -- selling most of the ads that appear next to their maps.
It's not as if Apple has a monopoly on bare-knuckles marketing tactics that trump engineering prowess. Google is in hot water now with users of its YouTube video service after it required them to sign up for the company's Google+ social network to post YouTube comments. (continued...)
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