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.
— Tim Cook, September 28, 2012
Apple broke its ties with Google which resulted in not only removing the YouTube app from iOS6, but mainly in replacing Google Maps with Apple’s own mapping solution. Everything got even more interesting after it turned out that Apple’s contract with Google still had a year to go and that it was Apple’s decision to terminate it early. While the YouTube app is now already available for download from the App store, Google Maps app for iOS does not exist and iOS6 users are stuck with clearly inferior (both from data quality and feature perspective) Apple maps. This is my own no-inside-information theory about why Apple launched Maps even though this service was not ready for prime-time.
In the olden days (read: before they became competitors), Apple and Google representatives used to sit on each others management boards. But then Google started eating Apple’s cake (especially thanks to Android) and Apple’s management became almost obsessed with annihilating their main competitor. Being so dependent on Google for such a vital part of modern smartphone functionality as maps are was not what Apple would want to tolerate for longer than absolutely necessary. Moreover, Google’s maps experience on Android have been superior for years and Apple could do nothing about it. So over three years ago Apple started acquiring talent and technologies and building partnerships in order to come up with their own mapping service. But as Apple painfully learned later, building a world-wide mapping solution that can compete with Google Maps is extremely hard, even for a company with almost unlimited funds.
Now, why Apple did that? It is almost certain that already months before iOS6 was announced, Apple’s engineers and testers must have known that their maps will not be ready on time. They knew their product is getting better every day, they were ironing out bugs, adding more and more data, making maps more accurate. But they must have known they are not going to make it on time. And they must have raised it to Apple’s senior management: Maps will not be market-ready for iOS6 launch. At least not to Apple’s standards.
However, Apple’s choices in this situation were extremely limited and none of the possible options was very palatable. Delay iOS6 launch? Call Google and ask if the contract Apple terminated could be re-instated again? Tell everyone that iOS will not have Apple maps after all? In the end Apple management chose to stick to their guns (and to hope that ‘it won’t be so bad’). Unfortunately for Apple, their hopes died just a day after iOS6 was released when reports about errors, missing cities, incorrectly named continents etc. started coming from all over the world.
Today, a week later, Apple’s CEO formally acknowledged the problem, apologised and even suggested alternative mapping apps users may want to consider until Apple’s own maps get into shape. To be fair, it takes balls to openly say such a thing, especially given Apple’s pride in their products and their ‘policy’ of shipping only when ready. Now Apple has just one task — to work really hard to improve their Maps significantly enough to get back to the game because when (not if) Google releases their own Maps app for iOS, Apple’s job will be much harder. Customers tend to be unforgiving…