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Apple Said to Fire Maps Manager After Flaws Hurt iPhone 5 (bloomberg.com)
83 points by tatsuke95 1698 days ago | hide | past | web | 89 comments | favorite

My take from the outside. Senior management decided to ship an incomplete project, and this manager is taking the fall. They could have evaluated the offering, made the hard decisions that they shouldn't remove Google Maps yet, and delayed the release.

Thing is, there wasn't much interesting meat on the iPhone 5 release, so I'm sure they were scrambling for any sort of "feature" to pad out the release.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not sure how much better Apple could have made Maps before launching it. The thing that gets me is that I can only view driving directions fully zoomed out or fully in (rather than being able to zoom in and out). However, in terms of map accuracy, their data is coming from TomTom/Tele Atlas. Google's data is better. Not only that, but Google has been working hard on local search. Apple simply doesn't have that data. I've really yet to hear how Apple could have launched a better product. Google has been getting data for many years now and when Google Maps launched, it didn't have nearly as complete data. As users used it, data improved. Apple has less chance for improvement because Apple doesn't do local search and non-phone maps in the way that Google does.

It's why I think Apple should make a web interface to provide an easy way for people to add businesses and make corrections via their browser.

I mean, I vaguely remember when Google Maps switched from Navteq to Tele Atlas for a while and users disliked the Tele Atlas data. However, if you don't own your own mapping data, you need to buy it from someone selling. Given Nokia's ownership of Navteq, it seems unlikely that Apple would have gotten that data.

Other than improving the data over time, what else was egregiously wrong? On the data side, I think it takes time with the app being used by the public to correct that. If they were to make the hard decision not to ship Apple Maps, would the data be in pretty much the same situation a year later?

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not sure how much better Apple could have made Maps before launching it.

I stopped trying to use Apple Maps here in Warsaw, Poland, simply because they get so many of the basics wrong.

Any official document lists my street name as Skorochód-Majewskiego. Even Nokia's new offering can find it. Apple though? Nope, not even anything in the autocomplete list. The only match occurs if you type in the full Walentego Skorochód-Majewskiego. This is true for many streets here. So on that level, their offering is useless.

There were loads of other bizarre issues at launch - loads of parks had their names written in what looked like Chinese characters. Out of sheer annoyance, I went through and marked them all, not expecting much, and sure enough, three weeks later, the names started to clear up.

And this is without going into how obscenely ridiculous it was to see Warsaw's main airport being marked with the German word "Flughafen" in its title.

Even Nokia's new offering can find it. Apple though? Nope.

Nokia owns Navteq, which is one of the premier providers of GIS data. They're actually better positioned then Apple in this space.

Nokia owns Navteq, which is one of the premier providers of GIS data. They're actually better positioned then Apple in this space.

I'm not sure that the data's to blame. For comparison, I've just given CoPilot Live a try with a couple of other streets (Korotyńskiego and Dickensa to be precise), and the UI presented them to without any difficulties.

These aren't new streets, they're on every map out there, and I'm convinced that this is a programming issue of not handling the data correctly. It's not even a case of doing cleverness with letters such as ń or ó - it's a complete failure altogether.

I was in Warsaw a couple weeks ago, and it worked fine, but I'm an English speaker, so not as sensitive to things like "Flughafen".

Firstly, Apple certainly could have provided public transit directions. Plenty of third party apps already did this (or at least claimed to), so there's no real excuse there.

Another issue is the goofy cosmetic problems with the 3D maps. Of course, you could argue that it's still "a data problem," but it's not the type of data problem that magically gets better as more users use the app.

Lastly, there are usability issues that have nothing to do with data. As another user noted, I can only view navigation either fully zoomed in (with slightly variable tilt that doesn't even work well) or fully zoomed out. The overview shows a list of all the turns, but doesn't let me click on each one to zoom in on it (like every other directions app I've seen). It doesn't show speed or any other useful statistics except for estimated duration and distance.

The old GPS app I used on my iPhone 4, which I believe was Navigon, was a far superior product even ignoring the lackluster data of Apple Maps.

Its frustrating because the old Maps did in fact let you click on the individual direction instructions to zoom into them.

Sigh, we need to stop with that annoying "maps will magically get better with usage".

No, they won't. Stop claiming that. There is no magic algorith m to fixup maps based on people being given wrong data. Even if some people will give some feedback, that requires humans to process that input and translate it into map changes. Which can take a loong time.

So you first argue that it won't get better with usage... But then admit that yes, it will get better because feedback gets taken into account.

Which is it?

They will get better with that feedback. Without the feedback, there is no way to improve them. It's simply not possible for 1 company to go around the entire world mapping every business and address in any reasonable timeframe. The only way to do it is by accepting and processing feedback.

I think their problem is much worse than just being a question of improving data quality. They seem to get data from a lot of very different sources, and those simply do not fit together.

For example, in Stockholm Apple's map still shows most buildings as lying in the middle of some street. On the other hand, only relatively few businesses seem to be located in some kind of building. There seem to be quite obvious, and systematic, errors all over the place.

Compared to the last time Google switched mapping databases, which I think was about three years ago, Apple Maps (for my town at least) has been remarkably accurate. For several months, Google Maps was putting my home address more than a mile from where I actually live (right in the middle of a major city, so a mile is a world away), and it refused to parse addresses for at least a couple of major commercial roads with unusual names. I don't think I've been able to find a single comparable problem with Apple Maps. Visual glitches don't ruin my day nearly as much as refusing to parse a business' address or placing it a mile away from where it is.

I still use Google Maps (via the web now), though, since I prefer the way it presents traffic data.

Scott Forstall (the guy in senior management directly responsible for maps) was also fired, so this doesn’t seem like a pawn sacrifice at all – unless when you say senior management you actually mean Tim Cook and only Tim Cook.

Ultimately it was Tim Cook's decision whether to ship it now or wait another year, just like it would've been Steve Jobs the last one to decide whether a new product is ready for prime-time or not.

If Tim Cook thought the Maps isn't ready, and he really wanted to ship it this year, then he could've decided not to do it anyway, but in the same time fire the people responsible for not delivering it on time. At least that would've saved them the public embarrassment.

Tim Cook is the CEO. It's ultimately his responsibility--and his apology shows him taking that responsibility--but he's got to be able to delegate decisions like this. It's not like he's going to personally test every feature. He's got other things to do. (He probably reviewed Maps, but by all accounts the issues with it aren't immediately obvious in the valley.)

His real responsibility is to hire people who can make solid decisions on his behalf, and to fire or move them if they can't do so.

When you reach a certain level, you have to stop passing the buck. Hell, if you want to reach that level, you have to stop passing the buck. Maps was Forstall's responsibility--to ship well or sound the alarm. Unless you have evidence that he was overruled, he's the right person to take the fall.

(This is setting aside all the personality politics, which likely played a bigger role in Forstall's exit. But that aside, Maps was still Forstall's job.)

>Tim Cook is the CEO. It's ultimately his responsibility--and his apology shows him taking that responsibility

My understanding is that Scott Forstall was forced to resign because he wouldn't put his name on the bottom of that letter.


No Forstall was forced to resign because of a lot of mistakes under his watch and a lot of bad blood between him and key people like Ive and Mansfield. With Samsung emphasising the design aspect in the Samsung S3/Note it is critical that Apple have a cohesive end to end experience. And that requires communication.

I think the letter was just the tip of a planet sized iceberg.

Oh, the Steve Jobs argument again. The omnipresent Steve Jobs, with his golden fingers and eagle eyes.

The same Steve Jobs that launched Mobile Me. The same Jobs that launched Ping as the next big social idea. The same Steve Jobs that allowed iPhone 3G to be upgraded to iOS 4 and become an expensive electronic brick.

Every CEO knows the worst thing you could do is to micromanage your team. And while every now and then you do have to step in, look over the shoulder and do course correction, even Steve Jobs knew he should spend time on the big things than to second guess every little decision of his team. And Tim Cook has a dream team, probably the best in the industry.

Yes, they will screw up eventually - as they did with maps, as they did before during Jobs era, and will certainly do it again in the future. When that happens, you take full responsibility (like Tim Cook did), make the changes internally (which may or may not mean changing people), and make them clean up the mess.

Certainly the Maps brouhaha somewhat impacted Scott Forstall, but I doubt anybody in their conscious mind would fire the most experienced sw guy in the company (and arguably in the industry) just because ONE mistake on a by-product feature. People simply don't buy an iPhone because of the Maps. And there's 200 other apps, some much better than the Google/Apple Maps anyway.

It's a well known fact that Forstall was a divisive guy. Love him or hate him. And over time people get tired of managing conflicts. It was time for a change. And as of this guy in charge of maps.. well, he f'ed-up. As Steve Jobs once said, "When you're the janitor, reasons matter". Sadly for this guy, he wasn't the janitor anymore.

They may have committed to launching Maps with iOS 6 early on, and been so pissed off at Google that they burned their bridge (that is, their iOS 6 branch which retained Google's maps). So in that case, the choice in front of Cook would've been a) launch iPhone 5 with shoddy maps and iOS 6 or b) launch iPhone 5 with iOS 5, or possibly c) don't launch iPhone 5 and watch the stock price crater.

it's funny you say that, I see it exactly the same way. In my opinion they should have "mistakenly" collected a little bit more data.

Apple is a victim of its own success and its marketing of that success.

Google doesn't try to make every product they announce seem like the greatest innovation since the wheel lost its corners.

Apple does. They release a video of Jonny Ive talking about how Apple had to "rethink everything" to produce their latest gadget or idea.

This causes the average consumer to be far less forgiving of Apple's mistakes or shortfalls.

I love my Apple products but they are not flawless and there are many other products on the market that do many things better or just as well as my Apple products do them. I am not delusional.

I love Jony Ive but I'm getting sick and tired of those videos, the same shit over and over again.

I agree with your comments - Apple is definitely a victim of its own success.

Recently, Apple products have not been as innovative as before (mainly just refreshed and updated product after product) and while I love Apple products, they're just running out of steam.

iPhone 5S in June? What on earth are they going to update it with? An A6X and Siri 2.0? They're out of ideas.

But this is the same plan Apple has followed for over ten years - the plan that's taken them from "Apple is dying" to "Apple is the 800lb gorilla".

Compare an iPod Classic to the original iPod - it's just an iteration on the same design.

Compare a MacBook Pro to a TiPowerBook - it's just an iteration on the same design.

Compare an iPhone 5 to an iPhone 1 - it's just an iteration on the same design.

Apple's innovation comes when they enter a new market (and the innovation is in packaging existing features together in a way that makes you wonder why no-one did it that way before). They don't really do major revisions of existing product lines - not since they scrapped the plastic Macs.

EDIT: just thought of the exception: the small iPods (Nano and Shuffle) - they don't really seem to know what to do with those.

If your product brings in $50+ billion in revenue, I'm sure you'll think of some new feature for the next iPhone.

To be fair, the actual Maps application is a vast improvement over the previous revision. If Google would have been able to provide the data to fit into the new interface, I think we'd all be raving about it.

Agreed. In particular, the new Maps was sold as being nothing short of fantastic when they introduced it at WWDC. At no point did they say anything like, "This is going to be a 1.0 release in a really tough area, so there are bound to be some rough spots. I hope the good parts make up for it, and we're improving the data all the time." It was basically just a long parade of "Apple Maps is Best Maps!" Well, no surprise that people get a bit upset when it turns out to not be the greatest.

Richard was in charge of the entire Maps project (client and server). His decisions were mostly pressure from Forstall, but that's how things were always done under that organization. Apple's magic always seems to fall out of the chaos from it all, and client side, the app is worlds better than anything else out there. Proof that formula still works well client-side.

It's the data everyone is upset about and it can't be fixed under the same chaotic management style that Richard and Forstall were in charge of.

Sad really, Richard was a good guy that simply took the fallout that executives are using to brighten Apple's image. Plus I assume it was a mutual departure as Richard was also in charge of several other iOS groups that he would have lost during the recent reshuffle.

I think you are spot on about the reason for change in management.

What Apple has needed and needs more in the future is partnerships. It is the ONLY real failure of the entire Maps project. There are plenty of data providers around the world who Google relies on for mapping data that Apple simply never approached before launch but have started to reach out to now.

I suspect you're going to see a rapid improvement in the quality of the data over this coming year.

While it's true that there are "plenty" of map data providers, there are _very few_ that deal with wide swaths of the world. Navteq and TeleAtlas were the go-to providers for worldwide coverage, but you've seen what TeleAtlas data looks like and Navteq isn't going to sell their data to Apple for any amount of money with Microsoft (via Bing) and Nokia backing them.

No, the magic is that there are tens of thousands of excellent data sources around the world. Google has spent the time and money pulling those data sources together into the best geographic database in the world.

Sure, Apple can reach out to regional data providers and try to merge the data into their own dataset (which is what they have done so far -- look at the legal notices for the Maps app to see all the sources they've got so far), but it takes a lot of time to call up each state, county, province, city all over the world and ask or buy every last drop of geodata they have. Once they have it, they have to merge it into their existing data. Google does this with the help of fancy algorithms and boatloads of volunteers and relatively low-paid laborers in India. They also have related products to trade for geodata. Want a discount on your city's Google Apps for Domain? Send us a DVD full of your land records and we'll give it to you for free! Already have Google Apps? How about a free license to Google Earth Enterprise?

Bottom line: Google has spent the time and built the technology to beat Apple to the geodata punch. Google is at least 3 years ahead of Apple and Apple can't catch up with money alone: dealing with governments (for their data) will simply take time.

Seems like a good old fashioned scapegoating. The problem with Apple Maps is entirely at the marketing and corporate decision making level.

I was an employee at Vicinity Corp (the first provider of Yahoo Maps back in the olden days) and can tell you from experience that good mapping software (and accumulation of good map data) is an extremely difficult problem.

Apple Maps is actually quite decent if you view it as a 1.0 product. Anyone expecting it to be truly competitive with Google Maps on the first go needs to reread Joel Spolsky's old essay on the 10 year rule for good software.

The failure of Apple Maps is that the execs made the decision to replace a superior product with it while simultaneously messaging that the new software was actually superior to the old one, when it clearly wasn't.

While I know nothing of the real story behind this, I suspect the guy who was let go here wasn't the guy who made the actual bad decisions.

> I was an employee at Vicinity Corp (the first provider of Yahoo Maps back in the olden days)

I don't know if by "olden days" you mean 2005-2006 or so, but I can tell you that at that time Yahoo Maps was the only serious competitor for Google Maps. It had actually better data than Google for many big cities outside of the US.

For example only in the last 6 months or so did I see that GMaps actually had geo-data for my city's neighborhoods (their "boundaries" etc.), a thing that was available in Yahoo Maps back in those days. Plus, the Yahoo data was quite open, unlike the walled garden that is Google Maps.

More olden than that, I'm afraid. I was at Vicinity in 1996 and 1997.

By 2005 Yahoo Maps wasn't using Vicinity anymore, they had their own in-house mapping team starting in 2002 or so. Between these two periods they also used MapQuest (which was Vicinity's main rival back then) for a bit.

By the time Google Maps became a thing what was left of Vicinity was owned by Microsoft (the old www.mapblast.com URL currently redirects to bing maps).

>and can tell you from experience that good mapping software (and accumulation of good map data) is an extremely difficult problem.

What ? Accumulation of good data is very easy these days. It just requires you to open up your chequebook and license it from the various providers.

I know first hand that Apple never even bothered to approach most of the providers before launch.

Agreed, Apple Maps are pretty much 7-8 years behind Google Maps. Money can't solve their problem. They need to do so much:

1) Build and train huge team to update the maps, stitch imagery, correct mistakes

2) Build tools for that team

3) Either buy the cutting-edge data, license it, or build it themselves. I don't see a point of licensing, since they might as well have used Google Maps.

4) Build the website. A maps app without a web interface is a lot less useful. They are basically sending their desktop users to their competitor.

5) Rebuild the brand. Right now Apple Maps is a joke, it's synonymous with bad directions. Nobody takes it seriously.

  I don't see a point of licensing, since they might as 
  well have used Google Maps.
Google only release their map data as slippy map tiles - they don't release the underlying data required to implement turn-by-turn directions.

Navteq and Tomtom will let you do essentially anything with their data for the right price.

1? 2? I'm pretty sure a Maps team does exist, otherwise yknow... We wouldn't have a product. Software doesn't magically appear out of thin air. And data is being updated, so they clearly have both a team and tools to do it.

3 -> It's licensed from TomTom. Why don't you see a point to licensing? That's by far the best way to get cutting edge data. Getting it yourself is going to take years.

4 -> Apple Maps is rumoured to be in the latest 10.9 builds.

5 -> Yeah, dearly needed.

Better yet, encourage openness by funding/using OpenStreetMaps and strengthening their dataset. Nobody wins if Google/Nokia end up being the only owners of accurate map data.

Bona fide question: if this is some manager "taking the fall" for Maps, why would it just now be happening? Tim Cook is said to be one of the best operational managers in the world; surely it's obvious to everyone there that collecting a scalp over Maps in December 2012 just puts Maps back in the news cycle during Xmas shopping season?

Personal belief: no discretionary high-level firings of any sort are going to happen during Xmas shopping season; Xmas is to consumer electronics what benefits enrollment is to health insurance companies: total operational lockdown.

Apple staffing decisions at the level of individual projects are pretty deep "inside baseball" for us technology-folk.

The average Xmas shopper isn't going to notice this; on the off chance they do notice it won't figure into their iOS6-device purchasing decisions; on the tiny chance it would affect their decision it might be a positive -- "Apple is actively cleaning up the mess!".

No shopper cares who Apple fires, but the trade press runs stories about the firings, and those stories include how the Maps app isn't great, and consumers do notice that.

Credit to the Bloomberg reporter.

Aside: Why is that popular Apple bloggers who claim to have inside sources are never able to break a story?

Maybe it sounds like I'm doubting the veracity of the story. I'm not. Credit to Bloomberg! What I'm skeptical of is the interpretation on HN, that this guy is a sacrificial lamb. If they were sacrificing him, they'd have done it months ago, or they'd do it after the holidays. November-December is bad time for human sacrifice.

Because most of these sensational breaking stories reflect negatively on the company these bloggers have built their identity out of...and thus themselves.

Richard Williamson, who oversaw the mapping team, was pushed out by Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, said the people, who asked not to be named because the information wasn’t yet public. Cue, who took over last month as part of a management shakeup...

This has been months in the making.

Is this personnel change interesting to anyone other Apple-watchers and investors? E.g., it's on Bloomberg and HN, but not CNN. This is today's CNN Apple story: http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/27/tech/web/bing-search-2012/inde...

It hardly seems to have affected investors either: Apple shares slipped less than 1 percent to $586.81 at 2:01 p.m. in New York. The stock has gained 45 percent so far this year.

As part of the management overhaul, Cue -- who oversees Apple’s iTunes, App Store and iCloud services -- was also put in charge of maps and the Siri voice-recognition tool, bringing all of the company’s online services under one group.

I think it's unrealistic to think that Apple-internal project/product management staff changes will be put on hold for months simply due to the shopping season. The executives probably feel this "overhaul" is quite urgent and is holding up deadlines.

I totally agree. I'm making a more subtle point, one that's about this thread, not about the news story. People are suggesting that this person is being fired to take the fall for the maps app; that he's a kind of sacrificial lamb. Companies like Apple don't sacrifice their lambs during the holiday season, is what I'm saying.

Agree. Of course, we should always consider the possibility that Apple is not acting rationally.

Interstingly, my wife said I was talking in my sleep this morning when she woke me up:

Me: "Are they going to sacrifice the goat?"

Wife: "No, but you need to get up."

Me: "No goat?"

Wife: "No, but we still need to leave soon."

Me: "Oh, I was hoping the goat was going to save us."

Wife: "No, we're on our own."

Apparently I then insisted that I was continuing a conversation I heard her having with the kids.

You're suggesting that Apple is firing executives to improve their PR? True, that puts it in the news cycle, but that's extremely cynical.

And a senior executive at a company as large as Apple should have no effect on day-to-day operations, especially not retail operations.

No, I'm suggesting the opposite; that there's no HR decision they can make vis a vis maps, hire or fire, that would be sound to announce during Xmas shopping season. Therefore, if someone at Apple involved in maps was just fired, it probably wasn't discretionary.

I'm curious what non-discretionary reasons you think could have caused the firing.

In my opinion, this is Apple's attempt to avoid taking responsibility for the product it approved and shipped. I find it disturbing that Apple will accept the credit and not the blame.

They fired the people responsible, wrote a public apology letter and have actively promoted third party map apps in the store.

What more exactly do you want them to do commit seppuku ?

Do you really think these guys were the guys who decided to ditch Google Maps and then sell Apple Maps as better than Google?

No, but it's entirely possible they were responsible for characterizing Apple Maps as, "better than Google," or failing to object to that characterization. The decision to release Apple Maps rests on the shoulders of the senior management, but they are only as well-informed as their subordinates make them. It's hard to assign blame for systemic failures, where something fails and no one sees it coming, but a possible answer is that the people closest to the project need to go.

What exactly is your point ?

The person who decided to ditch Google Maps is dead and the person who tried to sell Apple Maps as better than Google has already been fired.

My point is that at some point you are firing people just because you can leak it to the press, which is bad mojo.

This story reminds me of Steve Job's take on the difference between a Vice President and a janitor.


Jesus is that supposed to be inspiring? It sounds unbelievably dick-ish.

Thats a really great lil' snippet

This manager is being thrown under the bus. Senior management approved the product and pushed it into production.

Welll . . . it's hard to say. I mean, it's definitely possible that this is the case. But on the other hand, if the manager was pushing for release and won senior management over on incomplete or misrepresented data, then it would make sense to take out the trash.

As pointed out by arrrg, senior management (forstall) was also fired

Let us have Google Maps back and all is forgiven.

Not sure if firing the manager is going to help matters. Here are the main pain points as I see them, purely personal take, feel free to add points or correct me:

a. No transit data. Recommends apps from the App Store instead. There are a few good ones (like Transit, from a Montreal based company), but I personally rely on transit data a lot and any ad hoc solution is not good enough.

b. Missing/Incorrect Data. Specially outside North America.

c. Flyover looks good, but not as useful as StreetView.

d. Search - Yes, better data, transit data etc. are all well and good, but searching that data is the key. Apple's search is quite terrible. This is Google's bread and butter and they do such an amazing job that I don't think Apple can catch up with them. I don't think throwing a ton of money is going to get them out of this hole.

Again, can't see how firing a manager can even begin to tackle those issues. Unless that person was actively trying to thwart Apple's efforts.

My first reaction was "At least give the guy credit for the Flyover feature". But I just found that the feature came with the acquisition of C3 Technologies (2011). Looking at other aspects of the Maps app, I have hard time convincing others there are innovative components that originated from the team.

The C3 acquisition provided only the raw data. A lot of sleepless nights were spent turning that data into a major feature of the application.

Thanks for this insider knowledge (I assume you work at A). It feels better to know that my initial assumptions were incorrect.

Is it the manager in charge of the back end or the actual app? Because while the backend is shit, the app is really great.

Back end? I thought the only problem was the data. I associate "backend" with server-side code, not actual raw data.

Weird that people are voting you down. I develop backend systems for a living and also would separate a data problem from a backend problem.

Let's be clear here. Apple has a data problem.

I develop backend systems too. The data is not separate from the system. No one gives me a pass when the data is bad.

Even if the data is provided by a third party and you have no control over it?

You do have some control over it, by choosing which third part(y|ies) you work with.

Bloomberg seems to be the real source. So this is the more import link. But it was posted elsewhere on HN, too. See: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4837902

All this is rampant speculation. I'd say it's clearly not because iOS 6 Maps was met with such criticism: as others have pointed out, they've already fired Forstall for that (and other issues).

I'd say it was probably a combination of issues that led them to think that it wasn't a fit.

Didn't he get the Cue? Sorry, lame joke.

I hope Apple doesn't enter this soccer team emulation mode, where by firing the coach and keeping all else the same is supposed to mean things are changing.

In my opinion, it depends on how much responsibility was in the hands of the manager. If this person failed on those responsibilities, then he deserves to be let go.

Map service data quality improves with more users: more problem reports, more implicit data collection, more incentive for points-of-interest to improve their own listings.

So we'll know Apple is prioritizing service data quality above all else when they come out with an Android client, to get the most possible eyes on their data.

Map service data quality improves with more users…

It could. I reported an erroneous hospital (it was closed, torn down, and redeveloped some time ago) when Maps first came out to both Apple and Yelp. That dangerously erroneous data is still in there. If you try to rush someone to the nearest hospital from my house, you'd better have a plan B when you get to those new apartments.

I don't see why an Android client would work. Android users already have the best maps experience (aside from Nokia Maps, depending on where you live).

There's no incentive to switch to a worse app - it'd be like when Apple released a (very substandard) version of Safari on Windows.

If you (and Apple) assume that the Apple Maps app will always be 'worse' than Google's, then they've already lost. Their sights are too low; they've decided to accept being a distant 2nd place also-ran in quality and features.

If on the other hand the goal is to have the 'best' mapping app and location services -- to spend whatever billions are necessary, because it's strategically necessary for the mobile world -- then they should have an offering everywhere, showing off whatever they're best at.

ITunes on Windows, especially as a client to Apple's content store and as an enabler for their mobile devices, is a better analogy than Safari. If Windows users couldn't have easily used iPods, iPhones, iPads, and the ITunes Store, Apple could not have achieved their current profitability.

(I believe the same logic applies to Apple Passbook. If its usage is capped at whatever Apple's device market share is, it won't achieve the ubiquity necessary for greatest success in the mobile wallet wars.)

I think you missed my point - more users does equal more data, but there's no incentive for Android users to instal land use Apple Maps if they already have Google Maps on their phone. It'd get so few users that it would be a waste of time.

The introduction of iPod (and iPhone/iPad) compatibility to Windows is different because at the time, the iPod was by far the best MP3 player - this just made it usable to more people.

They just needed to out put the word Beta in there.

is Apple maps problem strictly an international issue or do most people find it lacking in the US too ?

Not to minimize other people's issues, but in (public transport-poor) Michigan it's been an almost unmitigated win. The vector-based maps load instantly, the UI is fantastic, it's beautifully integrated with the OS (in the lockscreen, with Siri, etc.), and %98 of the POI's and pathfinding are great. I've run into a handful of bad POI's and/or buggy pathfinding, but many of those were fixed. There's no way I'd want to go back to iOS 5's maps, and I imagine most people in suburbia, at least, feel the same way.

To be fair, google maps has had vector maps but did not get to implement them in their iOS version.

In any case, Apple is in the Bay Area, where they were presumably testing the product on a continual basis. There's no excuse to have the metro view be a shitshow and tell consumers that they're getting a better product

The data is pretty old/bad in a lot of cases in the US also.

I've had bad luck in Seattle and Oahu HI.

I now start with Google maps via Safari and only resort to using the Maps app if I need my location to show up as fast as possible.

They fired him probably because of this http://i.imgur.com/vSJTQ.jpg

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