Maccast Members #137 - Maps
V Opening
* A lot of focus and attention has been taken up criticizing Apple and iOS 6 over the Maps App. While there certainly are some problems, even Apple has admitted that, I think the whole thing is a bit much and though I should explain why.
V Is this as big a deal as it seems?
* In one TUAW piece Michael Grothaus, who currently lives in Lond on. Pointed out that it was bad enough over there that he's switching to Android
* Restaurants misplaced, wrong directions
* He said his friends and former colleagues have seen issues in New York and Singapore too.
* He feels that folks in US suburbs or smaller US cities may be the ones not having issues.
* So is this really a huge deal, or is it a case of the media once again blowing things out of proportion?
V Why is Google out?
* Educated speculation is that Google wouldn't give Apple access to vector based maps or integrate turn-by-turn features unless Apple agreed to provide more user data and allow better and more prominent Google branding.
* Despite rumors that Google has an app submitted or is ready to submit an app, Eric Schmidt told reporter's in Korea that google "hasn't done anything yet."
* That’s not to say Google Maps won’t show back up on iOS eventually, but don;t expect it anytime soon as a native app.
* You can save Google Maps as a web app and street view is supposed to be showing up for the iOS web app in a couple weeks.
V What's wrong with maps?
* Current problems are due to the merging of map data coming from a variety of sources.
V Apple is estimated to be using data sets from at least 20 different sources and tying to merge that data. a daunting task.
* Google tried a similar approach to start, but quickly realized the best approach was to create its own mapping data
* One article I read claimed that at its peak Google had 7,000 employees working on maps.
V Entering full addresses seems to work a lot better than broad searches
* Part of the reason for having a maps app is you need to find an service specific address
* Many think its Apple’s reliance on Yelp data for businesses.
V Apple’s response
* Tim Cook this week issued a formal “Letter to our customers regarding Maps”
* In it he apologized and said with Maps Apple fell short on it’s goal of creating, “world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers.”
* He cites turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps as the reasons why Apple choose do do it’s own mapping system.
* Also said Apple will work non-stop until Maps meets their standards
V But, also pointed customers in the meantime to 3rd party App Store alternatives
* Bing, MapQuest and Waze
* Google and Nokia web apps, even providing step by step instructions for saving as a web app.
V All this seems like a very different response from Apple then we are used to
* Yes they have issued apology statements in the past, but never told customers to use a competitor’s product, although they did give free 3rd party cases in lieu of bumpers during Antennagate
* My feeling is that with how public this issue has been the response from Apple makes it seem like they did something really wrong, and I’m not sure I feel they did.
V My experience
V I don’t think Apple deliberately shipped an unfinished or “half baked” product like some people are claiming.
* Building a world class mapping system from the ground up is obviously not an easy task and if you look at it as what Apple did accomplish in just a few years vs. what they didn’t accomplish you can see it is an amazing feat.
* While there are issues not everyone is experiencing them
* There are whole sites dedicated to examples, but they are easy to see when you know where to look.
* I'm not apologizing for the places where there is bad data, and neither is Apple, but I've been using Maps and turn by turn directions and I've personally not seen any problems.
* Also I have had bad directions from Google maps, again isolated, and I've used that app much longer.
V Apple's backtracking seems to make look like here is a bigger problem than I think there is:
* Tim Cook's apology letter
V Apple changed the wording on the maps page on the web site
* All of which may just make this app the most beautiful, powerful mapping service ever.
* All in a beautiful vector-based interface that scales and zooms with ease.
* They added an a 3rd party Map apps section on the front page of the App Store.
* Consumer reports did test comparisons of Google Android and iOS for turn by turn and found the two services both worked well with a slight edge to Android.
V I have run into issues when doing more generalized location searches
* I will often need to be more specific, “Medical Center” vs. Hospital
* Also, zoom level seems to play a factor, rather than naturally widening a search to provide more results
V Visually I much prefer Apple’s solution
* Icons and markers seem to be much clearer to me.
* The large street signs and font for turn by turn work great
* Re-routing seems to work reasonably well
V Observations of other smart people
V Dave Hamilton wrote a post where he points out that one way to look at it is a swapping of default and 3rd party functionality
* In OS 5 we had maps that gave us local search data, basic maps, and transit directions. For turn-by-turn we then used 3rd party solutions.
* In iOS 6 we have turn-by-turn built in and 3rd party apps like Navigon can provide transit schedules.
V Mike Dobson of TeleMapics has a great post on some of the challenges Apple is facing,
* Currently Apple lacks the resources to provide the majority of geospatial and POI data required for its application.
* Apple will have challenges in integrating all that local search data from disparate sources
* He seems to feel that Apple’s best chance is to employ more human power at the issue. Both in terms of crowd-sourced local data information and in qualified, experienced mapping experts to pour over the data
* As he points out Apple relied on the data they acquired or were given, but without likely vetting it with humans, and so likely were caught unaware that they even had issues.
* A step in this direction may already be under way. TechCrunch reported that Apple has been attempting to hire away employees from Google’s maps division.
V Conclusions
* Reports say Apple had a year left on it’s contract with Google, so why did they cut bait now and release the product they did?
* Of course we are all only speculating, but I agree with many others that there would have been little benefit to Apple a year from now. In fact things might be worse since Google will have only moved forward
* I think the misstep Apple keeps making is in over promoting their 1.0 products. Things like Siri and Maps, I don;t fault them from releasing these products, but more and more they seem to be doing the opposite of their under promise and over-deliver strategy.
* I think Maps is an amazing achievement and now Apple has even more pressure to make it better.
* I think if they had sat on it for another year it will not be as good as it will be a year from now. Now they can get the advantage of critics and crowd-sourced input.
* I think you can also bet that Apple will throw even more money and resources behind Maps.
* I had no delusions that Maps would rival Google Maps day one. Apple still has a lot of catching up to do, what will be interesting to see is how quickly they can do it.