NYT: iOS Maps another internet services blunder for Apple:

The Times claims "numerous interviews" with former Apple employees "made it clear that Mr. Jobs and other executives rarely paid as much attention to Internet services as they did to the devices for which Apple is best known."
“I always felt if you had to name an Achilles’ heel at Apple, it’s Internet services,” said former Apple product designer Andrew Borovsky, who previously worked on MobileMe. “It’s clearly an issue.”
Tantamount to the arguable lack of foresight was the iPhone maker's secrecy, which wouldn't allow services like MobileMe to be thoroughly vetted before launch.

I've been hinting a while here that software development really isn't Apple's strength. Look at the iMovie debacle for a good, end-user specific example. The newest iMovie isn't half as useful as its pre-rewrite predecessor, starting with the simple fact that Apple killed plugins. The Java VM went all over the place, adding Mac-specific stuff, then pulling it away, changing available look and feels, etc, without warning. The Final Cut Pro rewrite had a similar, but much more vocal, backlash too, enough that Apple refunded purchases and rereleased the old version, iirc.

You can get away with this stuff when it's USB-only and you've killed serial ports on the iMac -- and nobody's really using your hardware anyhow except those predisposed to cope with changes like this. I guess that doesn't work so well with iPhones.

Aside: How many people use iPhones? It didn't really hit me until the recent report that Apple is tracking 800,000 workers in China. Wow. They apparently added 300k since January of this year. That's a lot of iPhones being made in China.  A lot.  I realize without the savings almost inherent to the use of a Chinese factory, that many jobs don't exist, but can you imagine if they could move all of those jobs to the US?  They could bring a third NFL franchise to the Bay area beside the campus in Cupertino.

The biggest find from the NYT is that Apple doesn't understand testing. That's not a surprise, honestly, but it explains a lot. You'd've thought the Final Cut Pro issue would have been obvious if they had a good sized group of professionals doing beta testing.  Apple is a hardware company.  I keep seeing folks on the forums at rumor sites contesting that claim.  They shouldn't.  Apple makes software to sell their focus: hardware.  The end.

Of course, in retrospect, we now know Apple obviously did Maps wrong.

Wild idea: They would have done better to hire/buy/whatever some great GIS iOS developers to rewrite the Google app first. They could and should even have used Google data for the app. I'm not sure how you make cash doing that, but instead of offering to disgruntled users what's already on the App Store a few weeks after the iPhone 5 comes out, know you've got a great back-up waiting on them. Heck, even push the code that reads directions from your Maps dev to these guys in a garage replacing the Google powered app.

The selection screen, which turns out to be a selection website, viewed on my Mac today

It's as if Microsoft decided, when cornered by the EU, to do away with Internet Explorer by replacing it with a horribly hastily written, completely new browser. Instead, Apple needs to do what the EU required Microsoft to do (though for very different reasons): Preload the platform with map choices rather than a definitive app. Slowly grow a subset of folks' comfort level with yours, have those that chose to use Maps Beta laugh at the foibles rather than rant, and remove the Google app a year later when your license runs out (or, in the hypothetical above, release the "Apple-funded garage GIS development app" as part of iOS 6 too). The neat part: You weren't charged with anti-competitive practices, so you can remove the choice screen when you're ready.

Anyhow, hindsight is 20/20, but anyone who has actually used Apple software for years isn't particularly surprised.  Heck, very few companies get it right every time, and most of those don't range as widely as Microsoft, Google (hello, new Blogger interface; I'm looking at you), or Apple.  You know, shoot, Evernote can't even get Skitch 2.0 right.

Labels: ,