So, let’s go back to the hot story of last Friday: Apple Maps. I contend that Maps’ release wasn’t a mistake at all. It was a necessary first step for Apple to having a dominant Maps product over Google.
The best article I’ve seen on Map-gate is by Kontra at Counternotions. In it, he clearly lays out that mapping is hard and requires lots of data. It took Google (GOOG) 8 years to get its product to its current iteration. Even now, Google Maps isn’t perfect. If I’m driving in the country somewhere, it won’t always default to the most direct path. Sometimes I have to apply common sense. But, of course, it is very good.
Apple has usually prioritized customer experience over self-interest, which is why they launched iPhone with data from Google (YouTube, Maps, Search) and Yahoo! (YHOO) from the start.
But why didn’t they perfect it [before launch]? This is the kind of product that is so big and complex, Apple knew that it didn’t matter if it gave 1000 people in white coats working on this product 2 more quarters or 2 more years. There would be loads of mistakes afterwards with either approach.
The fastest way to improve the product was to get it out in the hands of users. Let the millions of users help get the product up the curve much faster than it would otherwise.
This is a great article that sheds a lot of insight about how Apple couldn’t perfect Maps before release, as well as why they decided to ditch Google Maps in the first place. Writer Eric Jackson also touches on Siri, and why she/it also had to be released in beta form, and what Apple’s long-term strategy probably is with its voice recognition digital assistant (or whatever the hell she/it is).
Read the rest at forbes.com.
John Gruber also has a take on the whole Maps “controversy” (because people are always manufacturing controversies where Apple is involved). He does point out (rightly so) that Apple did a huge disservice to themselves by not setting expectations correctly for Maps. If a product isn’t quite fully baked, you shouldn’t sell it as the greatest thing ever. That wound is entirely self-inflicted and entirely deserved.
He had this to say about Apple’s choices regarding the future of its Maps app:
So Apple’s options were:
- Continue for one more year with iOS Maps as it was — no turn-by-turn directions, no vector-based map tiles — and thus go for another year at significant feature disadvantage to all other major phones on the market, and then face the same decision one year from now.
- Work out a new deal with Google, granting Google more prominent branding and more (and more personally identifying — that’s what Latitude is all about) location data from iOS users in exchange for modern features like turn-by-turn and vector map tiles. More Google branding, less user privacy.
- Cut the cord with Google now and go ahead with Apple’s own mapping services — which have been in development for years, with several prominent acquisitions of mapping technology companies — so that they can add turn-by-turn directions, greatly improve the aesthetics of the map graphics, use vector map tiles, add the visually impressive Flyover mode, and, most importantly, take control of their own destiny.
No one should be surprised that Apple chose option 3.