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Saturday, 22 September 2012 12:51

Apple Maps, Apple Arrogance Featured

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Now the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 are shipping, the chorus of complaints about Apple’s new Maps application has turned into a deafening roar. The complaints are many, and loud, but they are symptoms of a greater malaise.

Apple Maps is a disaster. Apple says it is listening to the many complaints about the software so it can “further enhance the user experience”, but those very words are symbolic of a much bigger problem Apple has. Apple Maps, and Apple’s reaction to the furore, is a symptom, not a cause, of Apple’s increased disconnect with reality.

The ancient Greeks had a word for it – hubris. Extreme pride, such an overarching estimate of one’s own importance that one is blind to the views of others or to potential dangers to one’s own position. In Greek tragedies hubris invariably precedes nemesis, or destruction.

I’m not going to go into the problems here. They’re all over the blogosphere. The centre of Stratford-on-Avon depicted as a giant hospital, Madison Square Garden depicted as a park, the Irish village of Airfield depicted as – an airfield. The Net is also full of comments from Apple apologists that of course there would be some teething problems, and Google had a seven year start, and the maps will only get better.

Well, yes, but maps are very important. They are a core mobile app, and it is obvious that Apple’s maps are simply not ready for prime time. Apple is using its user base to beta test the product. The iPhone is a premium product that has just replaced a premium mapping system with a vastly inferior alternative.

Let me admit that I haven’t used the software – I’m sticking with Google Maps, thanks very much. I’m refusing my iPhone 4S’s demands to “upgrade” to iOS 6. Any operating system that ditches Google Maps for a vastly inferior product is no upgrade as far as I’m concerned.

Consider what Apple has done. It had a perfectly good mapping option, from Google. But Apple wants to own that space itself, so it replaced it with an inferior proprietary product. Now consider what else Apple has done.

Apple could have used a perfectly good new industry standard charging and connector option, called MicroUSB, but it released its own proprietary product called Lightning because it wants to own that space itself. And it could have used a perfectly good industry standard payments swiping system, called NFC, but it released its own proprietary product called Passport because it wants to own that space itself.

This morning I picked up a Samsung Galaxy S3 and had a good play with it. Pretty darn smart. Yesterday I had a long chat with a leading smartphone apps designer who told me how good the thought Windows Phone 8 is. Apple had better watch out.

I am on record as saying how impressed I am with the iPhone 5. Apple has done enough to maintain its aura, I said. But let us remember how dominant Nokia once was, or the Blackberry. (Or Novell Netware, or the DEC VAX, if you really want to go back to IT prehistory). Nothing is forever, and even forever isn’t long in today's technology industry..

Apple is the world’s most valuable company. It changed the smartphone market forever. But hubris is a dangerous thing. Icarus flew too close to the sun, and that was his nemesis. But at least he knew he was human. Apple actually thinks it IS the sun.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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