Apple just released this statement on Mapgate 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.
It's an honest and straightforward response from the Apple CEO, after a long week of being battered in the media for what even traditionally pro-Apple journalists have said "may be the most embarrassing, least usable piece of software Apple has ever unleashed."
But is it enough? ZDNET's Larry Dignan thinks so, saying that Cook's apology is "good enough to allay customers" emphasizing that "the sales impact is likely to be nil." True, but Apple took a huge PR hit in the process, causing even Apple loyalists to question the wisdom of the decision. Apple's decision is analogous to the NFL's decision to lock out its referees and use substandard replacements -- and we all know how well that worked out.
Sure, there are mapping alternatives for iOS, and some are free (Waze, MapQuest, TeleNav) but they're not the caliber of app that users have come to expect with iOS 5 Maps. True alternatives (like my personal favorite TomTom) cost money -- and not $1 kind of money. The U.S. & Canada version of TomTom costs $60 and is far from an impulse purchase.
Some Apple wags maintain that Apple didn't have a choice and had to switch horses for iOS 6, but I disagree. Apple could have used the remaining year that it had on its contract with Google to keep the old Maps app intact and release the new product as "Apple Maps" or "Maps Pro" as a free beta until it got the kinks worked out. Much like it did with Siri (which is still in beta).
Apple could end the controversy tomorrow by re-releasing its old iOS 5 Maps app (with Google data) as "Classic Maps" and include it in the default installation of iOS 6.0.1. By making new Maps an optional beta (at least until its contract with Google expires) it removes the stigma that it's forcing users to adopt an inferior product.
What would you do about Mapgate if you were Tim Cook?