For Apple, the iOS 6 Map Flap is just a mere speed bump

For Apple, the iOS 6 Map Flap is just a mere speed bump

Summary: The miserable iOS 6 Maps rollout has given Apple a dose of reality orientation and badly-needed humility -- when arrogance has been the company's operating principle. But at the end of the day, Cupertino will prevail.

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September 19, 2012. A day that will live in infamy. It was the day that everyone who owned an Apple iOS device and who wanted to upgrade to the latest version of the mobile operating system hit the "Upgrade" button, and found out after their next reboot that their devices were de-Googlefied.

Google Maps in iOS was no more.

This wouldn't have been an issue if Apple's own mapping and geolocation services were anywhere near as extensive or as accurate as Google's. But they aren't. The new Maps software has been lambasted by the media as well as the company's die-hard fans and it has been a public relations disaster for the company.

Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, has issued a public apology, and has stated that the company "fell short on its commitment... to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible" to its customers.

Is iOS 6 Maps a Cupertino speedbump? Yes. Has it given Apple a dose of reality orientation and given it a badly-needed dose of humility when arrogance has been its operating principle? Definitely.

Is the company going to stop selling iDevices like hotcakes and provide a wide opening for its competitors to knock it down to irrelevance?

Hell no.

With the release of iOS 6 and the Map Flap, the company's ability to innovate has been brought into question. 

When we talk about Apple’s mobile operating system, we really have to think about it in the context of entire products, and that is because the company enjoys a level of vertical integration with hardware that is essentially unparalleled in the entire industry.

For Apple, iOS is the software that drives their mobile hardware and to which they have an exclusive and is tuned specifically to run on their custom-designed microelectronics. Nobody else can do any kind of value-add on top of it. That’s just the way it is.

So to compare it to something like Android which is designed to run on a much, much more diverse pool of hardware, which is then in turn further modified to meet OEM and carrier requirements which try in almost a futile attempt to differentiate from each other to make one smartphone or tablet stand out from the rest of the pack is a bit unfair.

There is no question that from a holistic device plus software standpoint that Apple is driving all of the innovation in the mobile industry with their products. The iPad 3 and the iPhone 5 have the displays and the SoC’s and the industrial design to beat and by far have the most compelling and innovative apps being developed for them.

Right now, not a single vendor can match what Apple is doing with mobile devices as a whole, no matter how you read into the rhetoric from the respective platform evangelists.

What we’ve learned from the Map Flap is that there are things that Apple does extremely well and there are things that they don’t. Clearly, the company has a deficiency when it comes to geolocation and geospatial services, and it was absolutely a major tactical error for the company to extricate itself from its Map data relationship with Google a year early.

However, Apple does have one thing which gives it a huge advantage, and that it has over 100 billion dollars in cash. That pretty much gives them the power to buy any properties it needs or sign multi-year partnerships with Google’s competitors (Think Yahoo! and Microsoft Bing!) to boost its geolocation services and search portfolio or fill any other services gaps by hiring people with the subject matter expertise that it needs to build their own.

Ramping up software development to fill these gaps takes a lot of effort and money, but when you have the financial resources to fund several Manhattan Projects at once, you can make these problems go away relatively quickly, although I think it may take two or three years for Apple to reach parity with Google on the geolocation services front.

Can Apple safely remove Google integration throughout iOS going forward without annoying customers?

What the company faces is the very real possibility of having to let Google Maps back in as a dedicated app and to provide unrestricted access to Google’s Map APIs. And by the same token, Google would be utterly stupid to reserve the Maps software and services strictly to Android and not take advantage of the huge iOS customer base for their various services offerings, as the company’s CEO, Eric Schmidt recently intimated.

So how does iOS currently stack up to Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone in terms of innovation and raw capabilities?

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad, Smartphones, Tablets

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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45 comments
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  • Is cross-product platform integration a killer app?

    Great breakdown of strengths and weaknesses of each respective platform. I've been satisfied with each Android device I've used, but this article certainly sheds some light on the sluggishness I've noticed across devices. OS convergence between OSX and iOS and Win8 offer integration Google can't match. I wonder what Google will do to compete.
    urbandk
    • I would not count Google out yet

      Android is still growing in areas that iOS will most likely never grow. File system access, multiple users, hardware control, etc. Android looks like it is getting ready to release a full unified operating system for mobile and desktops. In theory, Android could offer a true unified operating system across any device it is run on. Unfortunately the open source nature of Android is creating so many issues that may never come to be if Google doesn't get more directly involved.

      Apple is cutting and pasting some features of iOS and OSx back and forth, but it isn't really making a unified system. Just sharing some features. iOS is just to far locked down compared to OSx for any true convergence to occur without large changes.

      Microsoft took the plunge with windows8 to make a unified kernal across all its devices. It has a lot of promise and if it succeeds Apple will most likely follow suit.
      Emacho
      • On Operating Systems

        It seems people forget that both OS X and iOS is the same UNIX OS. It can do anything that any other UNIX system can do.

        Android is too, based on UNIX OS. So there is nothing "great" in "Google doing filesystem access", because filesystem access is trivial on UNIX. It's a given. What Apple does however, providing APIs for (file system) objects access is innovation.
        Same about multiple users. Trivial on UNIX. etc.

        What Apple has done in what everyone should have done years ago and what it seems Microsoft is trying to do now. Have one base OS underneath, and provide different packaging of APIs and UIs for different form factors and usages.

        It seems people forget fast. Few years ago, Apple published white papers on the design of the iPhone. The key focus there was what *not* to include, not what to add.
        danbi
        • All that matters is what is

          You are right that microsoft is just getting around to unify and it still might fall short or have other problems. Who knows what balmer might screw up.

          The difference between android and apple however is that Android already has file system access and is willing to let users engage in it.

          While apple might be able to integrate something into iOS it isn't in apples nature to give users any control in iOS. OSx and iOS might both be unix, but they are still miles apart in terms of being a unified system. From interface, systems to hardware they are very far apart. All I am saying is that it will not be quick, easy or painless. Apple will have to make real choices of which style of OS will take the lead.
          Emacho
  • A bit over the top

    Wow.
    Something caught my eye on page one... "There is no question that from a holistic device plus software standpoint that Apple is driving all of the innovation in the mobile industry with their products."

    For smartphones, this was true a couple of years back. Not today. I am seeing across the board that the majority of expectation regarding the iPhone revolves around what Android has, not what iOS has. The statement that iPhone is driving is waxing poetic.

    Now add the tablet space. What are the hot topics? 7" form factor, Surface, and the nifty keypad cover from MS. The iPad is selling well and influencing, but driving? Starting to look more like coasting.......
    rhonin
    • A second item....

      "Generally speaking I find current implementations of Android -- Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean to be buggier and less responsive than iOS."

      Not sure where or on what devices you are using and across what apps. Between an iPad 2 on iOS6 and a Nexus7 on JB, i have yet to see a single crash on the N7 while the iPad has has several app crashes and a couple of device crashes. Maybe it is because it is an iPad2.

      Either way, my experiences regarding an N7 on JB and an iPad on iOS6 is remarkedly dissimilar from your. Like we hear, "your mileage may vary".
      rhonin
      • Sluggish keystrokes

        I agree, unless the 1 second delay i experience between touching a key on the keyboard and iOS recognising it is a deliberate design feature.

        Remember Apple's legendary autocorrect errors that are the subject of countless comic web sites. What about iPhone 4's short circuited antenna problem?

        The only thing unusual about the Apple Maps problem is the way people are acting as if it were a first.
        BRC-4c5c4
    • A Final Point

      "And if I were in charge of Apple's software engineering, I would continue the plan of swapping essential software DNA back and forth between Mac and iOS."

      So you end up with a PC OS on a smartphone or a smartphone OS on a PC. If it is a hybrid, it is either one, the other, or a crippled OS. I suppose it could be a bloated does both kind of OS but I think defeats its purpose.

      OS's that can seamlessly interact. I am talking about a many to many relationship. (iOS to OSX is a one to one). That should be the end goal. At this time, the only place I am seeing this is Google Services.
      rhonin
  • I disagree but for a slightly differnt reason...

    Here is why I see it as more than a speed bump. Apple's engineers don't work in a vacuum and they HAD to have tried using the maps functions and HAD to know how bad it was. It is apparent to me that there was a management decision to go ahead with it even when they knew it had huge issues. I suspect it came down to "we have a PR deadline, ship it out"!

    I have to believe (I'm certain) that if Jobs was still at the helm it would never have happened. That does not bode well for Apple or it's users.
    NoAxToGrind
    • 100% agreed.

      You nailed it.
      brother451
    • You got it.

      Perfect response.
      Ram U
    • I've Said It Before

      Don't you just love companies where the marketing department decides if the software is ready to be issued rather than the people working on the software?
      benched42
      • You mean Microsoft?

        I know several versions of Microsoft software that were shoved out the door before they were ready for prime time.
        ssaha
    • You wish.

      The only bucket-of-fail-that-is-ios6-Maps is in the minds of iHaters, FAndroids and the terminally disaffected. Ios6Maps works far more often than you all would care to realise. If it was the other way around with Apple refusing to license their IP to Google, you would all be cheering Google.
      The hypocrisy is astounding. The Android mantra of 'choice is good' is suddenly 'stupid' if Apple does just that?
      Once again, thanks for raising Apple's profile with incessant trolling and numbskull thinking. Apple owns you all - and you don't even know it.
      frogspaw
      • "Ios6Maps works far more often than you all would care to realise. "

        Except that I realize my mapping application has to work every time. And "far more often" is not the same as "every time".
        Hallowed are the Ori
        • So you must agree

          that Google Maps also sucks. When Google Maps declares that the driveway of the apartment building next to my development is my street (in suburban New Jersey, not some forsaken place in central Asia), I know that Google still has some work to do to perfect maps. Oh, and my house was built 13 years ago, not yesterday.
          ssaha
  • Arrogance

    "...when arrogance has been the company's operating principle."

    As a long-time Mac and Apple advocate, I can say that "arrogance" is not a word that springs to mind when I use one of the company's products. It doesn't pretend I'm stupid, it doesn't ask me one too many times if I really wanted to do that and, functionality-wise, it's just about perfect for me. In fact, it is the straightforward, easy and elegant interface that makes Apple what it is, the company that makes technology people *want* to use. That isn't arrogance, it's smart, and it's why Apple is the biggest company in the world now.
    tzbauknight
    • Not really the biggest

      It may be considered the most valuable by Wall Street based on stock price, but that doesn't make it bigger.

      Look at Google's price x outstanding shares, or Facebook price x outstanding shares and you can easily see that these "values" don't necessary represent any kind of physical assets that could be chopped up and sold to equal the "value".

      There are companies that have more revenue each year than Apple, there are companies that have more employees than Apple, there are companies that have more physical assets than Apple.

      All the rest is just perception, not factual reality.

      I just wish I could have purchase 1000 shares of Apple, Microsoft, Intel, etc during each of their IPO's and had the discipline to keep it this long....
      Rastor9
  • Speed bump?

    ...more like a move that shows the level of disrespect they have for their users. You say speed bump, I say it's writing on the wall in big bold letters spelling out the oncoming downfall of the post-Jobs Apple. A few more of these self-centered moves and their user base is going to lose faith. Let's face it, Apple's success to date is due to the Apple religion. Unfortunately their god is dead.
    brother451
  • Most Tech Writers Out of Touch

    The problem is that tech writers are either geeks and want "open source" so bad they're willing to believe Google is "open source," they are desperate for page views they think credibility lies with being contrarian, they are not invited to most Apple events and are pissed/annoyed or jealous, or they know "tech"where they think their readers still want jokes about blinking VCR clocks ... sure, IOS 6 maps is not perfect and there were some flaws but the bottom line is Google maps was always riddled with errors - 90% of the time, it could not tell you what side of the street a store was on but it was close enough. It's a "free" feature built into my phone - if I had to pay $100 a year, I might feel different but for free, I'll take it with some flaws and EVERYONE knew it would get updated ... so no big deal, What tech writers didn't get is that the people who were going to buy an iphone were going to buy an iphone - there are not many products where people simply WAIT for the new release - no need to look, there is only a 2nd or 3rd best phone ... tech writers who get prducts don't get that people who have to spend their own money will choose the best choice - at the subsidized price, there is not need to substitute unlike with buying a car or house. Only an eventual Android buyer would say that that was the reason they were going to switch. Samsung's ads are funny - they actually served to remind people there was a new iphone out and that people were still lining up so it MUST BE WORTH IT ... it's NOT even a real speed bump. A speed bump implies you have to slow - this is like a piece of paper 80 feet away on the street. Once you indentify it as a piece of flat paper - you don't have even have to slow down ...
    jbelkin