There has been a fair amount of grumbling in the technology press about the Apple Maps App released in iOS6—apparently it is not as good as the Google Maps that it replaced and, indeed, seems to direct people to the wrong place quite often.
However, as Kontra at CounterNotions points out, mapping is a complicated business, and Google Maps has had eight years to get where it is today—and it still advises that the best way to get from Ibiza to Valencia is to walk across the sea!
Furthermore, as Kontra also says, Apple has taken these gambles before—and they have paid off.
Q: Does Apple have nothing but contempt for its users?
A: Yes, Apple’s evil. When Apple barred Flash from iOS, Flash was the best and only way to play .swf files. Apple’s video alternative, H.264, wasn’t nearly as widely used. Thus Apple’s solution was “inferior” and appeared to be against its own users’ interests. Sheer corporate greed! Trillion words have been written about just how misguided Apple was in denying its users the glory of Flash on iOS. Well, Flash is now dead on mobile. And yet the Earth’s obliquity of the ecliptic is still about 23.4°. We seemed to have survived that one.
Personally, I have not had enough time to play with the Apple Maps App, but I do know that Apple partnered with turn-by-turn sat-nav maker TomTom to get a lot of the mapping information.
Which rather explains all these stories about sat-nav abusing lorry drivers ending up at Beachy Head, or grannies driving the wrong way up the motorway, eh?
Anyway, the main point is that a reliable mapping application needs a great deal of information to be fed back to the author; as with Apple’s voice recognition software, Siri—which also operates better the more data is fed back to it—the general consensus seems to be that these apps will get better, more quickly if they are released into the wild.
Once this has happened, then the wisdom of the crowds enables feeds information back far more quickly and cheaply than would otherwise happen.
As such, like Siri, I am confident that the Apple Maps App will get better very quickly—as, it appears, do Apple themselves. And, at that point, Apple will have broken a rival’s stranglehold on one of its most vital technologies.