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Bryan M. Wolfe
| October 1, 2012
Improving Apple's Maps Program Isn't As Simple As Convincing Customers To Use It
Tim Cook’s Maps apology may keep the wolves at bay for a while, but that doesn’t mean Apple’s Maps problem is going away anytime soon. In fact, the “true scale” of the job Apple faces to fix things is only now being realized, according to Technology Review. The first step to resolving a problem is admitting there is one. On that, Apple has passed go. Unfortunately, apologetic words will only get Apple so far. By replacing Google Maps in iOS 6 with their own package, Apple could be headed for failure unless they understand just how difficult the road ahead could be. They must recognize that fixing things will take more than having “more (of) our customers” use Maps. Cook used these words in his open letter to describe one of the ways iOS Apple Maps could be improved. According to the report, fixing Maps will require much more than crowdsourcing. While hearing back from customers is important, other steps must also be taken. These include establishing new data sources and easier ways to contribute fixes, as well as “enough willing map-fixers in geographically dispersed regions.” Apple must also implement something like Google’s Map Maker, a browser-based tool that allows users to edit map features on Google Maps. [caption id="attachment_343160" align="aligncenter" width="580"] iOS 6 Apple Maps[/caption] According to Michael Dobson, president of TeleMapics, a mapping consultancy:
Google has found a way to integrate active crowdsourcing on a level that Apple has not yet attempted. I don't believe Apple has more than a couple of hundred people working on this at this point.Dobson believes that Google has 5,000 to 7,000 people constantly “ironing out maps problems, counting stringers and part-timers.” In addition, Apple will need to employ a fleet of cars like the ones Google has used. These are essential, says Dobson, to capture GPS traces of streets and images of buildings. What is most crucial for Apple, however, is improving the points of interest feature. This means getting businesses, schools, hospitals, and other places on board to provide valuable information. For now, users cannot edit this information like they can through Google Maps. Instead, Apple’s correction interface only offers a list of choices, including “Place does not exist,” "Pin is at incorrect location,” and more. These solutions are all sound. However, they leave me wondering why Apple has decided to jump into something this difficult. This is especially true when you think of the time and resources Google has used to perfect their system. Instead of reinventing the wheel, Apple would have been wiser to pay Google their licensing fee and move on to something else. Instead, I worry they are setting themselves up for failure. For further reading, see Opinion: Did I Miss The Memo From Apple Making Us All Beta Testers? and It Seems The Apple-Google Maps Contract Still Had Over A Year Left To Expire. Source: Technology Review