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One bad apple spoils the barrel

Publication Date : 03-10-2012


There's a joke making its rounds about how Apple has lost its way recently, but chief executive officer Tim Cook has managed to steer it back on course.

Just hours after the update to iOS 6 for Apple devices was released last month, users began to deride the new Apple Maps, which is the company's replacement of the mapping gold standard set by Google Maps.

From poorly executed 3-D graphics, lousy directions to locations which did not show up, Apple Maps soon became the butt of online jokes in the tech community as websites sprung up to mock the inferior software.

What came next was a surprise, though. Apple's CEO, no less, penned an apology for what netizens have dubbed "mapgate", acknowledging that Apple Maps "fell short on this commitment" and that the company was striving to do better.

What surprised some even more was that Cook actually offered competitive alternatives, in the form of apps such as Bing, MapQuest and Waze and information on how to use Google or Nokia maps on an Apple device's browser.

This was not the Apple I knew and a great departure from the arrogance of former CEO Steve Jobs.

Apple has made several apologies over the years for lapses in service - many of them stemmed from pockets of discontent, such as price increases in the United States, or lack of stocks in some markets.

The biggest case against Jobs was back in 2010, when there was widespread unhappiness over the iPhone 4's reception, now known as "antennagate".

His infamous terse reply of "Just avoid holding it in that way" was a reflection of Apple's attitude then: that it could do no wrong.

Sometime later, Apple (not Jobs) issued an apology.

In contrast, Cook's apology is a great departure to the harsh line which Jobs' drew and represents a softer approach by Apple.

Still, I find that it lacks heartfelt sincerity.

Although Cook acknowledged Apple Maps' flaws and offered alternative map services to disgruntled users, he stopped short of saying Apple would reinstate Google Maps into its ecosystem.

If Apple was truly remorseful, it would make efforts to correct the mistake on the estimated 100 million iOS devices that have received the new maps update - and bring Google Maps back.

Once it has perfected Apple Maps, consumers can then decide if they want to go through this process again.

Right now, iOS 6 users are stuck with an inferior map that Apple has admitted to making.

While I give Cook credit for acknowledging the problem so readily, he should be more aware that it is now a different market from two years ago.

Back then, the iPhone had the admiration of many consumers and there were no rivals.

Today, the HTC One X, the Samsung Galaxy S III and several other smartphones are slowly gnawing away at Apple's marketshare.

When your device is the apple of one's eye with no equal, it's easy to stand your ground.

But when your rivals' phones are selling just as well - and with a map app that works - the allure of a new Apple product, with such a fundamental flaw, is no longer as attractive.

From antennagate, to the shortcomings of its voice assistant Siri, to the recent mapgate, Apple's mantra of "It just works" has taken several beatings in the last few years and the apology is a sign that the company recognises there is competition and it needs to do better.

Yes, the iPhone 5 sold more than five million units the first weekend it was released, which is extremely impressive for any company.

But it no longer works as well.


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