Friday, September 28, 2012

Apple CEO Tim Cook apologizes for iOS 6 Maps fiasco, recommends rivals

Apple CEO Tim Cook has done something that Apple or its execs would rather not do: admit a mistake.  Cook admitted the company blew it with its new Maps app in an open letter to customers issued on Friday, but he went further; he pointed out alternatives that customers can use until Apple fixes Maps, including Google Maps.

Apple famously decided to dump Google Maps from its recently launched iOS 6, despite having over a year left on its licensing agreement for the product. While the company may have felt that its home-built Maps product was ready for prime-time (and it certainly advertised it that way at WWDC earlier this year), the results and feedback from end users shows that the iOS 6 Maps app was nowhere near release quality.

One has to ask a) if Steve Jobs would have allowed the app to release in this form, and b) if Jobs would have apologized in such a contrite manner.  An iOS 6 feature, meaning that owners of older devices can hold off on upgrading.  However, iPhone 5 owners have no such choice.

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In part, Cook's letter said:

"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."

One would expect that a brand-new version of Maps would be buggier than a more mature product such as Google Maps, and - while not saying that - Cook did note the newness of the app.

As sources have said, the reason Apple ditched Google Maps was because the companies could not agree on the feature set that the embedded iOS version would have. The key for Apple was voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation, something that Android has had for some time.

Cook added that there are a number of competitive Maps apps in the App Store, or available as a Web app, saying:

"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."

It's believed that Google is quickly building a native Maps app for iOS. Nothing is coming in the short-term, however.

Meanwhile, Apple is known to be recruiting ex-Google Maps developers to enhance (or fix) its own Maps app.

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