Online Map Battle Continues as Both Sides Sound Off
As you probably already know, Apple CEO Tim Cook has issued his mea culpa for the Apple Maps ‘problem’. No matter which side of this argument you are on this has elicited some interesting responses.
First we hear from the pro-Apple, ‘Yeah Tim Cook rocks!” camp headed by camp counselor, Farhad Manjoo of Pando Daily. He cuts to the chase saying that this is over in one masterful swipe from the head Apple and that even Google has stubbed its toe here.
In a single succinct, sincere, and brilliant note, Tim Cook has put Apple’s Maps fiasco to bed. It was a beautiful thing. He offered a clear assessment of the problem (“we fell short”), and took full responsibility for it. He put forward a heartfelt apology (“we are extremely sorry”), and gave customers an easy, pretty-good short-term solution to the problem—they could get one of many rival maps apps from the App Store. Finally, not only did he explain how Apple will handle the situation—Maps would improve as more people use it—but he staked Apple’s brand on the promise that it would get better: “We know that you expect [the best] from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.”
Google screwed up, too. News accounts this week suggested that Google was caught off-guard by Apple’s decision to kick it off the iPhone, and that the search giant will take a few more weeks, if not months, to get its iOS maps app ready.
A bit over the top on the ‘Apple reigns supreme in all areas of life’ scale for sure. This is not ‘put to bed’ by any stretch. It’s also probably not as bad as the commenter community on (insert tech / Internet marketing blog name here) makes it out to be either with its “OMFG! Apple has gone rotten to the core. The day of mobile judgment has come!” statements and end-of-world-as-we-know it yammering.
One of the more level headed approaches has come from MIT’s Technology Review who simply states that Apple has a rather large boulder to push up a decent sized hill to make this right. Since I am not an engineer and those folks at MIT gives me the willies with their ‘the world is numbers and code and you pesky humans be damned’ outlook on life, I have to defer to an implied expertise about just what Apple is facing.
In response to scathing criticism over its new Maps app for mobile devices, Apple CEO Tim Cook last week apologized and admitted that the company “fell short,” but his statement did not hint at the true scale of the job Apple now faces to fix things, experts say.
Cook did say user feedback would play a role. “The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you,” Cook wrote in a letter to customers.
But Apple is going to need far more than user feedback. The scale of the problem—particularly, the millions of errant labels on points of interest like businesses—requires new data sources and easier ways to contribute fixes, as well as enough willing map-fixers in geographically dispersed regions. Little of this is evident now, experts say.
Being a very solid fence rider myself (still debating whether to switch to iPhone at some point in the very near future despite my heavy use of Google products and services), I am watching this situation unfold with interest in several areas.
First, what, if any, shine was taken off the Apple franchise? Too early to tell but if we are not a lot further along with Apple Maps being decidedly better in a very short period of time there is still a chance for blowback on this front. It also is an opportunity for Apple to make a spectacular recovery and even further elevate its mythic standing in the tech world. It’s just too early to tell. One thing is certain though. With this and the less than perfect Siri beta it does feel like a different Apple on more than a few fronts.
Second, will Google Maps take full advantage of a cartographer’s version of a face plant by Apple? Will, they unleash projects that are likely just about ready to be released or are strategically planned over time in order to pile on to Apple’s mapping woes? If I were Google I would do whatever I could to bury Apple and make the bar even higher than it is now so getting ‘back to even’ for Apple is as close to impossible as possible. That’s the ‘step on their neck’ approach that comes from my sports background where you turn up the intensity when your opponent is on the ropes with the intent to finish them off without giving them even a glimmer of hope. Easier to do in sports than in business for sure and I am not sure Google would even go there.
Finally, I am most interested to see what this does to the vaunted Apple fanboi advantage that the folks in Cupertino has over every other company on the planet. It’s hard to find a more dedicated and protective band of brothers and sisters who support a company and their every move in much the same way religious zealots of all stripes and sizes respond to their leadership.
So while this isn’t a ‘Waterloo moment’ for Apple it is a defining one. A lot will be learned about the post-Jobsian era of Apple from the response to ‘Mapgate’, ‘Mapegeddon’ or whatever stupid name you feel the need to attach to this deal.
What’s your take?