Kneejerk reactions are as common as insightful analysis is rare. Apple’s latest problem is Maps. It wasn’t ready for prime time. Maps is most obviously a beta app so threadbare that Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a public apology to iOS 6 customers and recommended a list of other maps apps that customers could use instead.
This episode reminds me of the last similar episode in Apple’s recent history of obvious beta launches. Siri. Yes, voice recognition and an intelligent assistant might be the future, but so far Siri leaves much to be desired as a product from a company fond of using the word innovation. Is it any wonder Apple called Siri a beta?
Why didn’t Apple call Maps a beta? Who’s in charge of Maps? Who’s in charge of Siri?
As it turns out, the executive overseeing both Maps and Siri is Apple’s Scott Forstall, the Senior VP of iOS Software. Despite the youthful appearance, Forestall is no new kid on the block. He worked for Steve Jobs at NeXT and came to Apple in 1997 during the Cupertino Revolution.
Tech media pundits, especially at digital rags such as Business Insider who tend to shoot first and aim later are calling for Forstall’s head on a platter. BI’s Alyson Shontell grabbed a few choice quotes from here and there which point the finger at Forstall. The ever-alert-to-crucify-Apple Philip Elmer-DeWitt asks a similar question in Fortune: ‘Does Apple Have A Scott Forstall Problem?‘
I don’t know. And neither do Forstall’s critics.
What I do know is that maps obviously is hard work. A new maps app takes years to bake to a level of acceptability, and still never becomes perfect because those damned locations keep changing. Google Maps has been around years and it doesn’t take much effort to find a bucket of obvious, highly visible problems which haven’t been corrected in years.
Is anyone calling for the head of the head of Google Maps? Why not? Google Maps is flawed, too.
Why Apple chose to dump Google Maps and build their own maps app has tens of thousands of words written about it already. Apple needed to do Maps, if anything, to close the gap between iOS and Android OS in a critical area.
The responsibility to bring Apple Maps to the public belonged to Forstall. He did the slick and sassy demo, and he took the applause during Apple Maps’ initial show ‘n tell. He’s responsible for Maps and Maps isn’t doing well. So, should Apple give the tech media pundits Forstall’s head on a public platter?
No. Forstall didn’t get where he is by being stupid. He got there by working hard, taking risks, and making things work. He’s not an overnight sensation and neither are his latest projects, both attempts to move the bar forward, both incredibly complex projects.
Head on a platter? Or, applause?
Ever the contrarian, I’ll go for what’s behind the applause door, Monte. It’s not like Apple has never made a huge public mistake before. MobileMe, I’m looking at you (and that was with Steve Jobs standing by). Silicon Valley rewards founders and executives of startups that think big, think different, and move the bar forward.
With Siri, Apple began the long, slow process of delivering an intelligent assistant embedded and baked right into the OS. Who else is doing that? With Apple Maps, the company was well behind the market leaders, but still began the long, slow, tedious process of delivering a home-grown maps app to rival Google Maps.
If Apple cans Scott Forstall for the sin of trying to bring the future to Apple products, and for trying to take an Apple product into the present, then Apple’s CEO and board of directors are as short-sighted as the tech media pundits calling for Forstall’s head on a platter.
Frankly, the world would be a better place if more of those tech media pundits would voluntarily place their own heads on such a platter whenever they prognosticate wrongly about Apple.