Apple’s apology tour

CEO Tim Cook says he's really, really sorry for botched Maps app. Somewhere, Steve Jobs is raging

Topics: Apple, iphone 5, Apple Maps, Tim Cook,

After reading Apple CEO Tim Cook’s groveling apology for the manifold imperfections of Apple Maps I had half a mind to return to Berkeley’s Apple store and deliver a stern I-told-you-so to the employee with whom I sparred last week.

But I soon thought better of my rash plan, for fear that an apoplectic Steve Jobs may even now be returning from the grave to wreak fiery vengeance on his simpering, pusillanimous heirs. Apologizing is not the Apple way, and the revered founder is surely pissed. Best to lay low and avoid becoming collateral damage.

Besides, the discourse over Apple Maps has moved far beyond the simple outrage that Apple’s newest iPhone and new mobile operating system upgrade force upon users an app that the New York Times’ David Pogue, a writer not known his harsh stance on Apple products, said “may be the most embarrassing, least usable piece of software Apple has ever unleashed.” No, today’s debate centers on whether Tim Cook was wrong to apologize!

Believe it or not, there is an argument to be made here. The most cogent version I’ve seen comes from Christopher Mims, writing at the Atlantic’s spiffy new business and technology site, Quartz.

Mims places Apple’s decision in the context of a long-term strategic fight with Google. According to Mims, Google would not give Apple access to the turn-by-turn driving directions software that Google developed for its Android Google Maps app, because Google didn’t want to give away a competitive advantage. Apple, therefore, had no choice but to forge ahead on its own, even if that meant users would run into some bumps in the road. But no worries, since the only way to get better is to take advantage of crowd-sourced user testing.

Jobs would have explained to the public that mapping is a uniquely difficult problem, and that the only way to build your own maps database from the ground up — one that could ultimately lead to a product superior to, or at least usefully different from Google maps — is to put it out in the wild and have millions of real users test it.

… Apple made the obvious choice. Customers are understandably upset that this means the maps app on their new iPhones is worse than it was on their old ones. But what Jobs understood is that sometimes you come down from the hill you’re on in order to ascend a much greater peak in the distance.

You Might Also Like

Mims also argues that back when Google Maps started out, it was buggy too. After launching in 2005, Google Maps required four long years before it was more popular that the pioneer, MapQuest.

I’m glad Mims reminded us of Google’s long climb to preeminence. Because it also reminds us of how Google got there — by being the best Maps application on the Web! That’s called earning it the hard way, and there’s a big big difference between getting to the top through sheer excellence, versus leveraging your control of a popular operating system to force crap on your users whether they want it or not. And, to add insult to injury, at the same time telling them, “Oh, yeah, it’s got some bugs, hey, why don’t you fix it!”

Mims may be correct to argue that in the long run, Apple made a strategically smart decision (although the jury is definitely out on that question). But in the short run, Apple screwed up. It delivered an inferior user experience to customers who have come to expect the highest possible quality — who line up to buy Apple products because they’re convinced they’re going to get the best gizmos money can buy. While it’s true that Steve Jobs most likely would not have scrambled to apologize for annoying those users, it also seems equally likely that Jobs would never have allowed the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 to ship with something that one of Apple’s biggest fans has labeled “the least usable piece of software Apple has ever unleashed.”

Andrew Leonard
Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>