Apple Maps

Posted Saturday, September 29, 2012 in Online, Mobile & IT by Peter Horne

I'm not an apologist for Apple... but one observation I made with the Maps mea culpa this week was that Apple learnt a lot from the iPhone 4 aerial debacle.

Remember that - the iPhone was deemed to be a possible failure by many pundits because the revolutionary design resulted in an aerial issue; perceived or real.  The Android crowd couldn't contain their delight.

So Steve Jobs jumped up and said mea culpa, the world moved on, and now we have the Apple 5 which can do no wrong (except perhaps channel Maps).

No one can really write a story about maps now except how it improves from next release to next release; so it's no longer a brand problem it's arguably now going to be another case study of brand building.  And it will probably end up being revolutionary once the technology catches up with the vision.

I wonder if Microsoft come out and say mea culpa with Windows 8?  Time will tell.

Be prepared for plenty of comparisons with MS having a maps moment!


  • phorne
    Peter Horne on September 29, 2012 at 8 p.m.
    Agree... basically Apple is showing how to provide good customer service in an imperfect and highly competitive device world. They are good, no doubt about it.  These are the reasons the cult members (and I'm one) stuck with them for so long... the question is how long can they keep up leading if they can't lead a cult anymore and have to lead the masses instead...
  • sjordan
    Scott Jordan on September 29, 2012 at 8:10 p.m.
    Really, the main thing Apple did wrong with maps was not labeling it "beta" as they'd done (and AFAIK, continue to) with Siri. It didn't just fail, it failed to meet expectations.  And those expectations were set by Apple at the iOS6 intro presentation, with the usual cornucopia o' hype: magical, awesome, etc etc.  Among the superlative should have been a sprinkling of good-natured qualifiers, something that in retrospect could indicate they were doing more dogfooding and less spinning. Then the whoopses in the app's performance would've been joke-worthy but not scandalous. It'll improve. Maps do. There's never been a perfect map, much less a perfect mapping app.  This one is particularly pretty, with some nice features the old Maps app didn't have.  But the underlying data needs work.  Shrug.  Look: For years now I've traveled with several map apps on my iPhone.  I rely on it to get me around in my travels.  And, friends: maps are inaccurate.  So even with the vaunted Google Maps on my phone, I've found it wise to have Waze and CoPilot and Bing and Motion X and a few others, all tucked in a folder.  Because just a couple weeks ago, arriving at Chicago Midway, one app put my hotel dozens of miles from its actual location.  Another got it right... this time.  It doesn't really matter which app was which, as next time it'll be the other way around. Nature of the beast. For this kerfuffle I blame a hysteric press on hair-trigger alert for nascent scandals to over-inflate, but mostly Apple for setting the table for the feast. The iPhone 4's antennagate does serve as a nice example of what gossamer thread these scandals are spun of.  It was such an unmitigated, horrific disaster that that model is still being sold today.  In other words: really no issue at all. I think this is a little worse, but it will still pass, perhaps even more quickly since it's software and the issues reside in its cloud component so it can be continually upgraded. Meanwhile Apple is wisely avoiding the childish message of "Well, lookit all these other competitors and the mistakes they make too" --they tried that with the iPhone 4, with comparative videos posted online of competing phones also showing death-grip issues.  That's a worthwhile message to get out there but one that should have been made by a surrogate, not Apple itself. The take away: Apple's handling it with more class this time.  That much is good. It does seem the company is taking on the persona of the courtly Southerner Tim Cook rather than the sharp-elbowed Steve Jobs. --S.
  • sjordan
    Scott Jordan on September 29, 2012 at 8:39 p.m.
    the question is how long can they keep up leading if they can't lead a cult anymore and have to lead the masses instead...
    Well, they do have their iPod props to draw on. That was hardly a product embraced only by True Believers.  Conclusion: Apple does know how to lead those masses. And even in mobile, it might be easier than it sounds, if Android continues on its fragmented, malware-prone current course (its wheels potentially loosened by its OEMs' distrust of Google after its purchase of Motorola) and MSFT/Nokia continue to fail to ignite.  And the Android OEMs' profitability numbers certainly don't speak of sustainability... (Samsung makes money in mobile, but as a company it's a whore and will continue hedging its bets with multiple mobile OSes.  And its ability to make money may take a hit if Apple continues weaning itself from them as a supplier.) Could Firefox's mobile OS be a wild card? If so, it comes at a time that Mozilla's browser is plummeting in usage, and their email client is already in hospice care. And what of RIM? Any hope there? Then there's the "ecosystem" thing. To my eye there are only two players who get that: Apple and Amazon. By comparison, it's not at all clear that Android users are into the ecosystem thing, or even into the Internet. Let's put it this way: one of my apps (which I put together for my employer and for which I can monitor installations thanks to a framework I used) has precisely zero Android users, versus many hundreds for the iOS side. Now, granted, "many hundreds" is not exactly a runaway smash in the app world, but this is an app aimed only at nanopositioning instrumentation users, a very thin market segment. Still, it's the ratio that counts. N divided by zero is still a blowout for iOS for any N. This, despite the oft-repeated contention that tech-aware folks are more likely to adopt Android. I'm not seeing it, not in this rarified segment of tech-aware consumers, even stuffed as it is with high-minded academic open-sourcialists. Web-access statistics are similar: the occasional Android user is a rare bird indeed. I conclude that Android's vaunted market share is coming from folks who mostly use their phones as ...phones. On the other hand, Android has its share of rabid fanbois whose fire-breathing devotion rivals only that of Apple's cultists. (Microsoft's fanbois still dominate corporate IT, though.) So Android has its army of seed-planters; that's done wonders for Apple, for example sustaining it during its leanest years. --S.
  • sjordan
    Scott Jordan on September 29, 2012 at 8:41 p.m.
    On the PC side, the fact remains that Apple's the only manufacturer making money.  The. Only. One.  And Pete may be weary of their monochrome brushed-aluminum sameness, but there's still a lot of folks out there who are astonished that a laptop can be picked up by a corner and not creak and groan, and that issues can be addressed by going to a gleaming store and talking to a pro face-to-face. Those are the "masses" Pete asks about, too... and their relevant insofar as "masses" will be interested in PCs henceforth. Ultimately, the future I see emerging for both mobile and PCs breaks along the emerging continental divide I've been chewing on for an article for Patty for many weeks now: the walled-garden vs. one or another self-described "open" computing architectures.  The former is conducive to growing an ecosystem; the latter will increasingly depend on spare CPU cycles (or if McAfee owner Intel has any say in the matter, specialized coprocessor cores) which perform anti-malware surveillance. Apple invented the walled-garden, but as it can attest, the first-mover isn't always the ultimate winner. What would disturb me if I were Tim Cook is that the computing world has devolved into one where it's impossible to play to a manageable number of strengths.  On the desktop and laptop, it's not enough to build great hardware or a great OS or great applications.  You must do them all.  (Microsoft agrees now, and is making its own tablets.) In mobile, the same applies, and even worse: it's not enough to do all the above, but you must also be a world-class cartographer and run virtual bookstores, virtual movie theaters and virtual record stores too.  A wise bit of business wisdom used to be, "Do one thing and do it well." No more. --S.
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