From a business standpoint, it’s understandable why Apple dropped the Google Maps app from its latest smartphone operating system. In its version for Apple iPhones, Google had withheld one of the most popular features — turn-by-turn directions that mimic a car GPS — presumably to make Google’s own Android phones more attractive. But Apple’s decision to replace Google Maps with a half-baked in-house program was a costly error.
Apple Maps does offer turn-by-turn directions, but it doesn’t show public transit options. It also gets plenty wrong. On a blog called The Amazing iOS6 Maps, users have posted some of the absurdities: landmarks moved and misnamed, bridges marked in the middle of dry land, rivers left off the landscape. One entry shows side-by-side views of Portland, Ore., on Google Maps and Apple Maps; according to Apple, a hefty part of the city is a park.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, to his credit, apologized quickly, pledged to fix the errors, and even directed users to competitors’ mapping programs. Still, the fiasco puts the spotlight on Apple’s management. Since the death of Steve Jobs, people have eyed Apple with special scrutiny, questioning whether its future products will live up to past successes. Releasing a mapping program that clearly wasn’t market-ready will only increase those doubts.