Opinion: The Fall Out of Mapplegate- App Week

Image courtesy of Frederik Hermann.

Unless you have been living under a rock, either because you are a starfish or the Apple Maps app accidentally sent you there, you have probably heard about the recent debacle at the offices of the company Steve Jobs started. Approaching the hyped-up release of iOS6 on the iPhone, Apple users were excited to finally have a navigation program that would allow turn-by-turn directions. This was old news for all of the Android-lovers out there who have had this feature for years.

However, prior to the release of iOS6, the only mapping application that came with the iPhone was Google Maps. Considering the fact that the two companies are the Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier of the mobile phone world, neither wanted to officially get into bed with the other. Google did not want to include all of the features of their program on the iPhone, as an attempt to swindle customers over to the Droid, and Apple was tired of giving away all of the data collected from users utilizing Google maps.

Thus was the causation for what is now known as “Mapplegate.”

Under the supervision of the new CEO, Tim Cook, Apple took matters into their own hands and created their own mapping software by taking the mapping data of Tom-Tom and combining it with the street-friendly information of Yelp and traffic knowledge of Waze. On paper, this all sounded great, but in an move that made the late Steve Jobs roll over in his grave, Apple released the program without fully testing it first. The result was a streamline of errors and miscalculations from all corners of the globe.

Some of the obvious errors included not recognizing the Brooklyn Bridge to exist, a hospital in Florida being replaced by a supermarket, and highlighting a secret military base in Taiwan. The latter issue was a problem because certain political places should be blurred out on mapping software. Just ask Dick Cheney, whose house was blurred out on popular online mapping services throughout his term as VP. This, of course, is a silly gesture, because all you need to do is look for the Eye of Sauron to locate where he lives. On top of the errors, the software took a step back with the exclusion of public transportation and street view. In a world of instant technological gratification, nobody has the patience for trading down.

What does this say about Apple? Well, Mapplegate may be the first true sign of a darker world without Jobs. His meticulous nature and demand for perfection never would have allowed these events to occur. Cook raved about the mapping software when it was hardly anything to be desired and when the excrement hit the fan, he issued a public apology.

For a moment, let’s picture how Jobs would have potentially handled the situation. First, if he decided to release the program, it would have most likely been labeled as Beta. This is what Apple did when they released Siri and, in turn, didn’t raise the consumers’ expectations too high. If people did start complaining about the mapping software, Jobs would have said something along the lines of “Suck it up. I’m Steve Jobs, bitch!” This is essentially how he handled the debacle of the iPhone 4’s antenna not working properly and people continued to eat out of the palms of his hands.

But, alas, Steve Jobs is gone. Prematurely releasing software and issuing grandiose public apologies is now the way of life without him. It’s a sad truth that everybody must come to grips with and is especially true for Cook who may also be dealing with the ghost of Jobs asking for a letter of resignation.

This all may be depressing news for those of you sitting with your iPhone after upgrading to the newest software, but fear not. All is not lost in the world of GPS technology. Apple is continually working out the kinks of their mapping application and Google is working on getting an app for their version of their maps for Apple products by the end of the year. In the meantime, a program titled Waze offers free mapping software with turn-by-turn navigation. It is also set up in a social environment where users create their own icon to place on the map and can update notifications about traffic jams and speed traps in real-time.

For traditionalists who just want things to go back to where they originally were, an app called ClassicMap is a quick fix. The program takes Apples Map software and overlays it with information from Google’s iOS5 maps. Do not expect ClassicMap to be an exact replica  as your old, beloved application as it has plenty of glitches. The app essentially puts a bowtie on a warthog, but it nonetheless will give you cosmetic satisfaction in the nostalgia of yesteryear’s operating systems.

It is easy to see that one of the world’s most successful companies has some hurdles to jump without the supervision of its founding father. Though, their current troubles does not mean that Apple cannot survive without Jobs and will soon become another technology company of the past. Not too long after Henry Ford passed away, his car company produced the Edsel in 1958, which was ranked as one of the worst automobiles ever made. The company then went on to build the Mustang less than a decade later and on to countless other titans of the car world.

Apple faces a long road ahead as the dust settles from Mapplegate. As most failures go, people learn from their worst mistakes. Cook and his team can take a lot away from the events that have taken place over the last few weeks and may once again find their time to shine in the legacy that Jobs left behind. Until then, we will continue to miss the genius of Steve Jobs while Apple Maps gets us lost on the way to put flowers on his grave.