This past week, Australian police put out a warning to drivers: DONT USE APPLE MAPS! This story really brings the adage “You can’t get there from here” to mean a whole new thing. Users around the globe have been complaining about the way Apple Maps handles some of the images and placement of items ever since its release with iOS 6.0.
While most user experiences are a simple matter of a few meters to about 1 kilometer in difference, or the occasional warped or misplaced bridge or building, the Australian version of the app put the town of Mildura in the middle of Murry Sunset National park, a difference of more than 70 kilometers. This put some users of the App in a real life life and death situation due to the fact that it is mid summer in Australia, nearly 46C in the park and no water to be had for kilometers around.
It is now apparent that Tim Cook’s re-shuffle of his cabinet at Apple was right in the removal of Scott Forstall from the Apple governing committee was to punish Scott for the failure Apple Maps. Whether Eddie Cue can do any better with it will only be shown in time and new releases of the app, although none have been shown to be in the pipeline quite yet other than the fix to the Australian issue with Mildura.
Frankly, I am glad that my own recent experience with Apple Maps was only a kilometer off and I was able to ask local folks for actual instructions to the location I was trying to find. Apple did get on the ball and fix the Australian issue quite quickly yet I doubt they will be fixing the whole app anytime soon. They are still taking the attitude that their Maps app will be better than anyone else can create including Google, however, other map applications such as MapQuest is passing them by while they twiddle their thumbs.
For the players in the Map Business, there is Google and then there is everyone else. Google has spent years and millions of dollars building their Maps by driving the actual roads shown on the maps. They are continually updating their map related systems. I was recently a witness to the evidence of this updating process in action when I was standing on a street in Japan and a small vehicle with the Google Logo and the camera globe on the roof of the vehicle rolled by. Two minutes later, the same vehicle rolled by again, obviously taking care to get every element of the road recorded. Having checked the Google Maps system, I found that the actual update of the road I was standing on has not made it to the system yet as it is too recent, yet it is something that frankly Apple is at this point totally incapable of doing.
If Apple is smart, they will give up on having their own Map app, go ahead and license Google Maps and quit the bickering between the two companies which at this point is leading to the possibility of real world casualties due to Apple’s desire to keep everything in house. Not only will this be a win for Apple since they wont have to actually perform updates to the maps, but it will also be a major win for the users who really are screaming at this point about Apples absolutely lousy Maps app. They would also enjoy the benefit of a working relationship with Google in the long run that could actually benefit both companies bottom lines.
Even though no apparent updates of Apple Maps are forthcoming, I would say to look for the next update near the end of January or early February. Of course, that may be a bit optimistic and for those who think I have the crystal ball of what is going on at Apple, Inc., I wouldn’t go getting your hopes up too high.