An Apple Map user walks into a bar, or is it a church, no wait it is an office, hold on it is a sporting venue….
One of the many jokes that were out there after the Apple maps debacle. As soon as the new mapping software came out, major issues started cropping up. And these were not “bugs” but fundamental and serious issues! Of course Apple had to scramble, refused to admit to the gravity of the error and to make things worse blocked Google Maps which had been the default map app on the iPhone up to that point. Of course everyone knew that Apple was trying to shut out one if their biggest competitors from the iPhone platform. Especially considering they are in a dog fight with that same company in the overall mobile space!
But today, all is well again in the world of mapping – Google maps is once again available on the iPhone. And yes, I downloaded it immediately. I actually tried to download it last night but wasn’t available until morning east coast time! By late morning, New York time, the word on the street was how much better and what a relief it was that the Google maps were back on the iPhone. There are even some rumors that it has vaulted to top of the down load list on for the AppStore.
So the question becomes, why did Apple embark on this adventure? Why did they challenge the incumbent. One that was much more versed in the map game (anyone remember when you didn’t see Google Earth when a news station shows you a location on the map of the world?) I realize the answer is simple – Apple could not allow one of their largest competitors own a major piece of real estate on the iPhone, just like YouTube which is no longer standard on the iPhone. They did what Microsoft did to Netscape. Unfortunately, they were not as successful…correction…it backfired. For now.
Apple wants to control what is on your screen, what default apps we all use or at least think we have to use because it is the default. Similar to Microsoft that wanted you to use their web browser rather than the Netscape one that had been the default. So far so good. However, the difference is the following – during the browser wars we were limited in the applications we had. Whether writing, spreadsheets or presentations, there were not hundreds of options. Now we have, on average between 40 – 100, applications on our iPhones. So does owning the mapping application mean as much as Microsoft wanting to own the browser – no. Could Apple have conceded the mapping to Google, maybe provided their own Apple Map app, as an option? Sure. Why not test it, and make it robust so that the Statue of Liberty isn’t located miles from NYC. Then Apple could have slowly made the switch to their own mapping as the default.
I understand that in the long run, Apple needs to hold on to some core apps, needs to be able to data mine some of the information that goes through these apps. It just feels as if they went too fast. The public backlash and PR nightmare it created was not worth it for, what feels like, pushing through something that was not ready for prime time.