Apple Maps: The FAQ
Fri, Sep 21, 12
Q: Is this Apple’s Mapgate?
Q: It is?
A: Most certainly is. Apple released a product which in its very first day didn’t have the coverage of Google Maps, which took about eight years to get here:
A: Yes it does, if you walk on water, like Google does from Alicante to Valencia in Spain:
A: Well, the map says it’s current:
Q: Maybe Google just didn’t get to it yet. Google Maps is in beta anyhow.
A: Yes, it must be:
Q: This is confusing.
A: No it’s not. It simply means Google Maps can and likely will get better. Just like Apple Maps.
Q: But Google Maps has been around for the better part of a decade.
A: Yes, mapping is hard.
Q: Then why did Apple kick Google Maps off the iOS platform? Wouldn’t Apple have been better off offering Google Maps even while it was building its own map app? Shouldn’t Apple have waited?
A: Waited for what? For Google to strengthen its chokehold on a key iOS service? Apple has recognized the significance of mobile mapping and acquired several mapping companies, IP assets and talent in the last few years. Mapping is indeed one of the hardest of mobile services, involving physical terrestrial and aerial surveying, data acquisition, correction, tile making and layer upon layer of contextual info married to underlying data, all optimized to serve often under trying network conditions. Unfortunately, like dialect recognition or speech synthesis (think Siri), mapping is one of those technologies that can’t be fully incubated in a lab for a few years and unleashed on several hundred million users in more than a 100 countries in a “mature” state. Thousands of reports from individuals around the world, for example, have helped Google correct countless mapping failures over the last half decade. Without this public exposure and help in the field, a mobile mapping solution like Apple’s stands no chance.
Q: So why not keep using a more established solution like Google’s?
A: Clearly, no one outside Mountain View and Cupertino can say who’s forced the parties to come to this state of affairs. Did Google, for example, want to extract onerous concessions from Apple involving more advertising leeway, user data collection, clickstream tracking and so on? Thanks to the largest fine in FTC’s history Google had to pay (don’t laugh!), we already know how desperate Google is for users’ data and how cavalier it is with their privacy. Maybe Apple didn’t like Google’s terms, maybe it was the other way around, perhaps both parties agreed it was best to have two separate apps available…we don’t know. After well-known episodes with Microsoft, Adobe and others, what we do know is that Apple has a justifiable fear of key third parties dictating terms and hindering its rate of innovation. It’s thus understandable why Apple would want to wrest control of its independence from its chief rival on its most important product line.
Q: Does Apple have nothing but contempt for its users?
A: Yes, Apple’s evil. When Apple barred Flash from iOS, Flash was the best and only way to play .swf files. Apple’s video alternative, H.264, wasn’t nearly as widely used. Thus Apple’s solution was “inferior” and appeared to be against its own users’ interests. Sheer corporate greed! Trillion words have been written about just how misguided Apple was in denying its users the glory of Flash on iOS. Well, Flash is now dead on mobile. And yet the Earth’s obliquity of the ecliptic is still about 23.4°. We seemed to have survived that one.
Q: So all you’re saying is that Apple Maps was rushed out the door even though it wasn’t quite ready?
A: As they say, every turn-by-turn direction starts with the first step. The longer Apple waits the harder it gets. From iPods to iTunes to iPhones to iOS, Apple’s modus operandi has been to introduce products and continuously improve them into widely attractive maturity by adding value without increasing prices, enlarging ecosystems, deepening integration and generally delighting users with a constant stream of innovations. With a user base fast approaching half a billion and thousands waiting in line to buy its latest product at this very moment, we empirically know this to be true. Why should Apple Maps be any different?