Apple’s map woes go beyond one app

In an epiphany regarding the  problems with Apple’s iOS 6 Maps app, David Pogue notes that “Apple has written a beautiful, well-designed app — and fed it questionable data.” That’s a problem, of course. But it’s not the worst problem for Apple. The real issue is that, as long as Apple’s maps are deemed untrustworthy, iOS developers are going to have a much harder time justifying integration with that data. After all, as compelling an app as a general maps app may be and as appealing a feature as turn-by-turn directions are, these can be replicated or substituted.

The ultimate reason Apple wanted to do its own maps was to be able to control  a robust location-based facility for tis app developers. These services are such an important ecosystem lynchpin that Google’s refulsal to adopt Nokia’s location-based offerings was a dealbreaker that scuttled any possibility of Nokia adopting Android and which resulted in Nokia powering parts of the Microsoft mapping solution.

This is why allegations of Apple putting its own self-interests before those of its customers do not ring true. The appearance of Apple forsaking its users to spurn Google is no more than an accident of timing; no such accusations would be raised if Apple had decided to launch the iPhone forsaking Google just as it did Flash or, for that matter, microUSB, MicroSD cards, NFC or physical keyboards. In all these cases, Apple made decisions that had at least short-term disadvantages for users, but which also had benefits, some of which took time to materialize.

These notions throw out everything we know about Apple’s historical attention to detail and concern with the user experience. Apple knows that when the customer experience suffers, it suffers — clearly in the short-term but, if not resolved as quickly as possible — in the long-term as well.

Update: Tim Cook has posted a letter to customers that affirms Apple’s dedication to its customers and pointing them to alternatives in the interim.

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