Apple is under a lot of pressure right now. Tim Cook released an apology letter on their website regarding the Apple Maps debacle. It is uncommon for the perfectionists at Cupertino to release such a half-baked product. Tim Cook has assured all the customers that they are doing everything they can to make Maps better.
Everyone was happy with Google Maps. It had all the right bells and whistles and did the job just right. It is one of the apps that everyone took for granted, much like the photo app or the music app. But Apple somehow thought it should get into making a Maps app that is better than Google Maps. Some newer features in iOS 6 such as Passbook and Siri are dependent on location and that would have been a lot more difficult if Apple had to use Google’s Map services. Moreover Google refused to offer voice-based directions on iOS like it did on Android and the deal broke down.
So Apple looked to third-party vendors to make apps for them. For that it acquired Poly9, C3 and Placebase and made deals with TomTom and Yelp. Poly9 is famous for its poly9 Globe which is a clone of Google Earth. C3 is known for its 3D mapping technology. Placebase offers richer data integration into the maps than Google Maps with its PushPin API. TomTom is widely known for its maps and directions. Yelp is a popular location-tagging service much like Foursquare and offers personalised and crowd-sourced reviews of locations and businesses. When all this had gone into making a Maps app, everyone expected nothing less than perfect.
But what came out in the end took everyone by surprise and complaints came pouring in, just days after the release. Several roads, buildings and neighbourhoods were either flattened out or crumpled like paper. Search results were invariably wrong and ‘Berlin’ was named as Schoeneiche. Perhaps the makers fell behind schedule and chose to release the unfinished app anyway. That would have been manageable for start-ups and smaller companies no one looks up seriously to anyway. But this is about Apple, one of the few tech giants known to deliver on its promises and a visionary of sorts in the field of consumer electronics and computers. Its CEO has apologised and will eventually get Maps to work right. But at the moment some serious questions are being raised. The management will have a hard time explaining this oversight to its investors. Is Apple losing it? What went wrong? If the app was indeed not ready and upto the standards that Apple takes pride in setting, why was it released anyway? They could have delayed the release of the iOS even if that meant more angry customers. Apple will have to do a lot of explaining to cover up this mess and it might not probably even matter in a few years. But for now the damage has been done and Apple has lost a substantial amount of respect.
Many would hope to see Google Maps back in action on iOS but that might not be possible any more. Apple would lose a lot more if it goes down that path. After it snubbed Foursquare and made a deal with Yelp, Foursquare released a new app which is much better than Apple’s own Maps! It needs to work fast to repair the damage and get back to doing what it does best- amaze the world!
Here is the letter from Tim Cook-
To our customers,
At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.
We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.
There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. 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.
While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.
Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.