Apple executives discuss the backlash and lessons learned from the heavily criticised maps launch with iOS 6
The launch of Apple Maps with iOS 6 back in 2012 was an unmitigated disaster, prompting a rare apology from the company and its CEO Tim Cook.
Apple, accustomed to loyalty from its customers and critical acclaim, was taken aback by the ferocity of the backlash. Speaking to Fast Company, two senior Apple executives discussed the saga and offered an insight into what exactly went wrong.
“The first thing is that you’re embarrassed,” said Eddie Cue, head of software services at Apple. “Let’s just deal with that one fact of emotion. I mean, these things mean a lot to us. We work really hard.”
Focus at Apple
One of things that angered iPhone users was that Google Maps had been included in the platform for many years and its accuracy and feature set were valued by Apple’s customers. The company doesn’t make all of its apps (it doesn’t have a Facebook rival), so why mess with mapping?
The answer was it thought it could do a better job and thought maps would eventually become an integral part of the iOS platform.
“It was a huge learning moment for Apple. Maps presented us with some relatively new challenges, where we needed to develop competencies that we initially didn’t appreciate, areas where we needed some depth,” Federghi added. “Maps is a huge data integration and data-quality issue. You’re getting data from a lot of providers, and some of that data is, or should be, changing every day.”
We’re now a leader
Fast forward a few years – with lessons learnt – Apple considers itself a leader in the area and is much less humble than it was in the wake of the disastrous initial foray.
“The first thing to know about Maps is there’s no one developing maps in a significant way except us and Google,” Cue insisted, before adding it was not being complacent.
“Every day, businesses are opening and closing, streets are changing, highways are being built. There are short-term things happening, like particular lanes closing, traffic, a bridge being closed. The whole thing is extremely dynamic, which makes it an interesting problem,” he explained.
And this idea has always been at the core of the firm, heralded by Steve Jobs. Federighi pointed out that Apple has always found itself doing new things and having to adapt at the same time, using iPhone and Mac as examples.
But despite the ordeal, Federighi says Apple will never stop trying to innovate.
“We are a company that has learned and adapted as we’ve gone into new domains, during Steve’s time and after Steve’s time,” he said. “If you look at building mobile consumer devices and what it meant to market and retail those, we were doing lots of things we had never done while we were just the Mac company.
“Under Steve, that part of the business learned to adapt to that domain, and got really good at it. Under Steve, we got into silicon; we now design and build our own chips. The set of practices, disciplines, expertise, and management approach to releasing a chip that you’re going to fabricate in the billions is a different discipline than the one you’re going to use to design a Mac. So we had to develop that expertise in chips, because it was vital to the experience we wanted to deliver.”
And as for iOS? Well, Apple now tests new versions in a public beta before releasing them to the public.