Should Apple use Google Maps?

by Jon Lebkowsky

Word on the street is that the new iOS6 maps app is a mess, but Philip Elmer-DeWitt argues in Fortune that launching its own maps system was something Apple should have done long ago. However that argument focuses more on what’s good for Apple than what’s good for the consumer. He says “the company found itself in the position of feeding its customers’ priceless location information into the mapping database of its mortal enemy. That couldn’t go on forever.” Google maps have matured over the years, growing ever more accurate and robust as Google has leveraged “billions upon billions of data points supplied by hundreds of millions of users” to improve its maps over the years, which makes “Google Maps seem so smart and iOS 6′s new Maps app seem so laughably stupid.”

I can think of a competing argument here: letting Google do what it’s done so well and continuing to leverage it could make sense in they way it would support the user’s experience.

On the other hand having the two companies compete, each trying to outdo the other with its offering, could longer-term lead to a better user experience.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Here’s Mashable’s more detailed critique of the new Maps app, with comments and a slideshow, noting that “the problems are so numerous, Maps may never have a chance to prove itself before Google comes back strong. The search giant will soon release its iOS version, probably after just enough time has passed for us all to try Apple’s Maps and pronounce it DOA.”

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Scot Hacker September 24, 2012 at 1:49 am

Google Maps didn’t start out fantastic – they took years to get that way. We weren’t mad that early Google Maps sucked because we had no expertise because Google was setting the standard.

Shouldn’t we afford Apple the same patience here? They enter a market already dominated by an expert. An incredibly difficult market. We want it all and we want it now. It would have been virtually impossible for Apple to come out of the gate with Google quality because they haven’t had time to gather user data.

Apple has untold billions in the bank – plenty enough to throw resources at this like crazy.

Everyone needs to take a chill pill on this.

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jonl September 24, 2012 at 7:21 am

That’s one way to look at it; another way is that, since Google has figured this out and has a mature mapping system that’s become more or less standard, why challenge it? If you believe that competition drives innovation, the challenge has potential value for users, as I’ve suggested above.

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