Apple was always going to have its work cut out with making its own Maps app - the world is a big place - but perhaps Apple’s biggest challenge was attempting to map the world without the resources or expertise to do so.
Where Google has 7,100 people working on Maps, according to Business Insider, it would appear that Apple lacked the resources and the expertise to build its Maps application.
Apple also lacks the access to Google’s search data, notes an excellent article on the TeleMapics blog. “Apple lacks the ability to mine vast amounts of local search data, as Google was able to do when it started its mapping project,” writes TeleMapics owner Mike Dobson.
Dobson recommends that Apple should hire some experts in mapping, specifically: “People who are experienced in mapping and understand the problems that can and do occur when compiling complex spatial databases designed for mapping, navigation and local search.
“Apple does not have enough qualified people to fix this problem and needs to hire a considerable number of talented people who have the right credentials,” Dobson claims.
Apple needs a sizable team if they are to produce their own mapping/navigation/local search application, states TeleMapics.
Inadequate maps data
It wasn’t only the lack of resources and expertise that hindered Apple, according to TeleMapics. “The issue plaguing Apple Maps is not mathematics or algorithms, it is data quality,” writes Dobson.
TeleMapics blames the third-party data suppliers, but also Apple for not recognizing that this data would be insufficient. “The companies that it (Apple) has assembled to create its application is that they are, as a whole, rated C-grade suppliers,” according to the TeleMapics blog.
The data used by Apple included “business listing data from Acxiom and Localeze (a division of Neustar), supplemented by reviews from Yelp,” explains Dobson.
One third-party isn’t slammed by the report. Dobson doesn’t blame TomTom for the issues: “I suspect that the data and routing functionality that they have from TomTom, while not the best, is simply not the source of their problems.” TomTom, who signed a deal in June this year to supply mapping information to Apple, was quick to defend itself in the uproar against Apple Maps. TomTom issued a press release claiming that its maps data provides only the "foundation" of the Apple's mapping software, while Apple "create their own unique application, which defines the user experience," reports Business Insider.
It’s not just that Apple bought in substandard data, according to Dobson, other issues include: “Lack of postal address standards, lack of location address standards and general incompetence in rationalizing data sources.”
Even worse: “Apple’s data team seems to have munged together data from a large set of sources and assumed that somehow they would magically “fit”. Sorry, but that often does not happen in the world of cartography. Poor Apple has no one to blame but themselves,” concludes the Telemapics report. “Apple should never have tried to automate the process.”
No Maps app testing
The issue with the data integration is all the more concerning if Dobson’s observation that Apple didn’t test the maps to see if the data was accurate.
“Perhaps the most egregious error is that Apple’s team relied on quality control by algorithm and not a process partially vetted by informed human analysis” writes Dobson.
He surmises that: “These maps were being visually examined and used for the first time by Apple’s customers and not by Apple’s QC teams.”
“If you take the informed human observer who possesses local and cartographic knowledge out of the equation that you will produce exactly what Apple has produced – A failed system”, states Dobson.
Crowdsourcing the Maps solution
The solution, other than employing some mapping experts at Apple, is for Apple to “get active in crowdsourcing”, notes the report.
Indeed, the official Apple statement on the mapping application fiasco suggests that crowdsourcing will be Apple’s solution, and Apple is already harnessing local knowledge and inviting users to supply local information.
Apple’s statement read: “We are excited to offer this service with innovative new features like Flyover, turn-by-turn navigation, and Siri integration. We launched this new map service knowing it is a major initiative and that we are just getting started with it. Maps is a cloud-based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get. We're also working with developers to integrate some of the amazing transit apps in the App Store into iOS Maps. We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.”
Coolsmartphone describes how on Sunday they uploaded data to Apple about the name change of a pub. To do this you click in the bottom right hand corner and press the “Report a Problem” button, the site notes. Having selected “Information is incorrect” and submitted the new information, within 24 hours the information had been updated.
Blaming the Cook
AllThingsD reports that the Maps team is under lockdown right now working to fix it. “But it's unfortunate that it was ever released in this condition in the first place,” notes that report.
Who is to blame for the fact that Maps was released in such a subpar state? Many point to Apple CEO Tim Cook, with some suggesting that Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs would never have launched Maps in such a state. If Cook shared Jobs’ “Obsessive perfectionism and attention to user experience,” would Maps have launched.
One source told Reuters that on realizing that the Maps app was not up to scratch, Jobs would have put the whole company to work on the problem, as each negative review of the widely used feature would have irked him.
That said, Jobs would most definitely have launched Maps in whatever state, such was his desire to move away from Google. Jobs claimed Google Android was a copy of iOS 6, and threatened to start a “Thermonuclear war” with the company.
Not only would Steve Jobs have released Maps, he would have demanded it writes Forbes. That report suggests that the move from Google is more than a reflection on Jobs thermonuclear claims. “It’s about ensuring that Apple has its own data set that millions of people will search on every day. Apple wants to control the search box in their own operating system, and that means taking full and autonomous control of the mapping experience.”
Whether Apple was wrong to put its “own priorities for corporate strategy ahead of user experience," as technology pundit Anil Dash, put it, the company needed to sever ties with Google. Eventually, writes Forbes: “Apple will be in a far healthier position than if they had renewed their mapping deal with Google.”