You all know the deal with Apple Maps right? The much touted feature of the iPhone 5 that was going to revolutionize the way we use our phones for navigation? The one that was going to totally crush Google maps? If not, here’s the short version:
Apple maps sucks.
If, like me, you are using an iOS device then you already know this. If you are not, this is a good opportunity to point in the direction of such users and laugh. I’m not going to bother analyzing why the app is a broken piece of crap. There are plenty of articles out there that will tell you why that is. As expected, there are also some shameful examples of Apple’s reality distortion field suggesting it’s not so bad after all. Sigh. Fanbois. They just make all of us look bad don’t they?
Anyway, the reason I’m writing this is to give my two cents on Apple CEO Tim Cook’s official response to this embarrassing debacle. Here’s what it says:
To our customers,
At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.
We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.
There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you.
While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.
Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.
Ok. I have to hand it to Mr. Cook. That took some balls. Big brass ones.
People are of different minds about this. There are many who see this as a grievous error. In their opinion, it would have been “smarter” to just keep shut and work on the problem. Fix the app asap and let the world forget this ever happened. Hmmm. Maybe. I don’t know what the long term ramifications to owning up to something like that is. But the one thing no one seems to be talking about just happens to be the most important: Smart or not, it was the RIGHT thing to do.
Tim Cook has a pair of impossible shoes to fill. Many “experts” are still convinced that the death of Steve Jobs marked the beginning of the end for Apple. Mainly because Cooks is no Jobs. To which my calm and erudite reply is “Well fucking DUH!”
For all the stellar qualities the maverick Steve Jobs had, honesty was never on the list. Remember Antennagate? I would argue that whole business did more to tarnish Apple’s reputation that anything else. Jobs basically came up to a stage and said “Lol you stupid apes. You are holding the phone wrong. Also, fuck you.”
It was embarrassing. It was completely false. It was WRONG.
It was also enough to convince me that after using three iPods, I should go Android for my next mobile device.
Being a true leader is not easy. Which is why we have so few of them. Because to be one means not just accepting the accolades of a job well done, it also involves owning up to your mistakes. Accepting your teams screw ups as your own is what separates leaders from bosses in the first place.
Does Cook’s letter fix Apple maps? No. Does it change the fact that Apple was crying hoarse about how awesome it was going to be? No. But admitting a mistake does not change the fact that they are working on a solution either. And not accepting a failure does not exactly polish the company’s image. While we are on the subject, let’s not forget, manning up and taking one for the team actually shifted the focus off the broken app and its false promises. If you really think about, this might have been a sound strategic decision. Time will tell.
The experts can analyze all they want but the fact is, Tim Cook just made me sit up and take notice. It not often that we see true leaders. Especially in the sphere of big business. Apple still has a lot to get right if it has any hope of getting me back in its corner. But for now their CEO has reclaimed the one thing that Apple lost from me a long time ago.