Does Apple Really Need to Build Its Own Apps?

Quick, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) shareholders, run for the exits! Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is coming after you! Your mapping capabilities will be left to rot in the sun like a beached whale, just like your online dominance eroded after Cupertino released Siri and totally wrecked your search mojo. Your time of growth is over!

Now that we have the reckless hyperbole out of our systems, let's look at the reality of the situation. Google's hardly been diminished by Siri in the months since its release. It's actually gained search-engine market share. It continues to make more with each quarter, and there's been no shortage of ambitious Google projects, in spite of the imminent demise Apple pundits have promised.

So what's the threat? If anything, Apple may be becoming its own biggest enemy as it abandons Steve Jobs' "release it when it's perfect" ideology in favor of pushing highly touted but flawed beta products on fans.

I knew I shoulda made a left turn at Albuquerque
It didn't take long for intrepid users to find out how inaccurate Apple's new mapping platform is. Tech blog Gizmodo has reports that the Maps app mistakes Greenland for the Indian Ocean and of attempts to murder drivers by sending them off a bridge.

But let's forgive Apple. After all, no one would be stupid enough to follow their GPS off a bridge. Well, that's not quite true. Accidents do happen when users don't verify that the turn being suggested won't send them careening off of (or into) something, and Washington state alone recorded more than 600 GPS-related accidents in the past five years. But the bridge is within eyeshot of Infinite Loop, so this particular mistake might not be one that Apple developers should have let through the cracks.

Don't make the same mistakes twice
The fact that Apple's quietly shuffling its Ping social network off to the digital graveyard should be evidence that the company doesn't always get its software right. Siri's become the target of a lawsuit that claims its functionality isn't as advertised, so that feature hasn't been perfect, either. Apple isn't the only one to release imperfect products -- Facebook's (Nasdaq: FB  ) motto is "move fast and break things," and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) is well known for its cycle of good and bad operating system upgrades. But Apple holds itself to a higher standard, and that's a big part of its appeal.

A company's image is a large aspect of its brand value. We're more or less used to having Facebook treat us like easily herded cattle, and Microsoft, despite the advancements and diversifications it's made, still has a widespread image of "good enough." Google's a great search engine but seems to have problems making products people love.

Apple, on the other hand, is supposed to be a cut above. An elite performer, the cream of the crop. If its executives prefer to carry out vendettas against companies that could help it, that runs the risk of not only drawing the company away from its core competencies, but in also damaging its perceived superiority to its user base. Apple shareholders have a lot of things to be happy about, but they should keep an eye on the company's new initiatives, to make sure they don't risk tarnishing its hard-won halo. They should also make sure they understand all of Apple's opportunities and threats, something our head technology analyst does in our latest premium report on Apple.

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Fool contributor Alex Planes holds no financial position in any company mentioned here. Add him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter, @TMFBiggles, for more news and insights. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google, Microsoft, and Appleand creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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