The Apple Map Snafu, or Mapplegate

The new Apple iOS6 replaces the good old standby Google Maps with a new Apple application. The new app clearly has some nasty flaws. But one expert cartographer explains what went wrong.

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  1. Back in the day, when Microsoft and Apple were bitter rivals who spent as much time and money in court cases as they did competing in the marketplace, I was deposed as an expert witness in one of the lawsuits. The Microsoft lawyer asked me repeatedly questions about Microsoft products I'd used. After three of those, I answered, "You can stop asking me about Windows products with versions lower than 3.1. I never touch the stuff." The room enjoyed a chuckle. (The lawyer later told me, sub rosa, "Neither do I.")
    Now it appears I may have to start exercising a bit of that caution with respect to Apple upgrades. The new iOS6 which was just released has critics howling about the relatively ugly problems being discovered in the Maps app Apple substituted for Google Maps. I'm not concerned because: (a) Google Maps is far from flawless; (b) the errors being reported largely wouldn't affect me anyway; and (c) I don't have a device that can benefit much from it. I have an iPhone 4 which supports some feature sets and undoubtedly runs everything slower. I also have a first-generation iPad for which iOS6 is apparently not at all compatible.
  2. The audacity shown by Apple in throwing out an app that was consistently one of highest use among its iPhone users and replacing it with its own concoction. At the very least, it would have been prudent to let the two co-exist for an iteration or two. But Apple is nothing if not bold. In this case, perhaps a bit too bold for its own good.
  3. According to a professional cartographer, Dr. Mike Dobson, Apple’s biggest issue is that its “team relied on quality control by algorithm and not a process partially vetted by informed human analysis."
  4. I've felt for years that algorithm-based testing is practically never adequate except perhaps in faceless apps which are just doing behind-the-scenes data crunching. Clearly this app didn't undergo rigorous human testing. I suspect it will now do so. Only the test team will be all of the iOS6 early adopters.
    Sounds like Microsoft's old strategy: ship it, then fix it.
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