Apple Makes a Wrong Turn

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) wants me to go to iOS 6, but I say, "No, no, no."

Why, why, why?

Because Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) map app works very well on my iPhone 4S and iPad 2, thank you very much, and from what I've read, Apple's replacement app in iOS 6 is so buggy it should come with an exterminator.

Complaints range from omission of public transportation information, lack of detail, inconsistent city information, and poor traffic overlays. And Apple Map problems are reported to be even worse overseas.

However, this map app hoopla hasn't stemmed the tide of iPhone 5 sales -- Apple said it sold 5 million iPhone 5s in the first weekend alone. But it does raise a major question: Why would Apple, so well-known for its almost insane attention to detail under Steve Jobs, release such a flawed product?

One possible, but not likely, reason is that Jobs' replacement as CEO, Tim Cook, just doesn't sweat the small stuff like Jobs did. The map debacle is certainly a major departure from Apple's usually flawless execution.

More likely -- and more disturbing, as far as I'm concerned -- is that this was a strategic gamble on the part of Apple, to knowingly foist a poor product onto its loyal customer base just to push Google off Apple's mobile devices ASAP.

So what about the problems that Apple Maps may cause its users? Apple's comment:

We launched this new map service knowing that it is a major initiative and we are just getting started with it. ... We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.

Deja vu all over again
This Apple Maps detour brings to mind an Apple event of a little over a year ago. The company had spent the last 10 years making its video editing program, Final Cut Pro, the most popular professional video editing software in the industry. Then, suddenly last summer, Apple announced it was ending development of Final Cut Pro and replacing it with Final Cut Pro X.

The good news for consumers: FCPX cost much less than FCP. The bad news for editors: many important features vital to professional video editing were left out.

Apple promised that many of those features would be brought back in future FCPX upgrades. Editors, however, had projects to complete and couldn't wait on Apple's upgrade program. Many switched to other editing platforms, like Avid's (Nasdaq: AVID  ) Media Composer and Adobe's (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) Premier Pro, to get the editing features FCPX lacked.

Misdirection?
Granted, the professional video editing community is minuscule compared to the magnitudes of Apple's total customer base. But the way in which Apple threw the editors under the bus may have been the beginning of a manifestation of corporate hubris: Apple can do whatever it wants because it has become so rich and dominant.

But investors should remember that the way Apple has become so strong was by focusing on the user experience. Sacrificing that user experience as a strategic counter to Google's importance in the mapping world could push potential customers into the Google Android mobile ecosystem if for no other reason, than to have a mapping service that actually works.

In the meantime, the iPhone 5's tremendous sales numbers merely underscore the effect Apple has on the whole tech world. To get the full scoop on one of the pre-eminent names in technology today, grab your copy of the Fool's new premium report on Apple. It comes with a full year of updates, as well as an overview of the must-know opportunities and threats for every Apple investor. Click here to get started now.

Fool contributor Dan Radovsky has no financial interest in the above-mentioned companies. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Adobe Systems, Apple, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating a diagonal call position in Adobe Systems and a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not 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.


Read/Post Comments (7) | Recommend This Article (3)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 24, 2012, at 10:32 PM, cfpeterson wrote:

    Have you tried Maps? Sometimes I can't figure out what MF is doing - on one hand dismissing the app (perhaps without even being on the phone of the writer) while recommending the stock as a "core holding." I have Maps on my phone thanks to the update and was able to "find my way" without any problems. And then there is that "turn by turn" feature that was NOT part of G Maps, but why should we talk about improvements to the experience. Oh - I forgot - that was your premise.

  • Report this Comment On September 24, 2012, at 11:38 PM, ColonelBill wrote:

    I wonder if MF can get more hyperbole in an article? Let's see the choice of words: hoopla, buggy, flawed, foist, debacle, "under the bus", and hubris. Maybe the author will eat "crow" if the map "debacle" amounts to nothing in the end.

  • Report this Comment On September 24, 2012, at 11:54 PM, thethreestooges wrote:

    APPLE just ratchet up Steve Jobs Thermonuclear War to get the Google Leach off APPLE products. First Samsung, then the rest of Andriods handset, except for dull razor. If APPLE fails at its Map, there is better Map from Nokia. Let the Hedge Funds pump up Google while they unload.

  • Report this Comment On September 25, 2012, at 1:07 AM, Risky88 wrote:

    Complacency kills

    just ask anyone who works in the streets

    It's no different in the business world

  • Report this Comment On September 25, 2012, at 7:46 AM, jdmeck wrote:

    I have an iPad 2. Upgraded, and find Apple maps works better than Google where it counts...directions. I tested the program getting directions for places Google screwed up before and the Apple app got it right.

  • Report this Comment On September 25, 2012, at 9:08 AM, XMFDRadovsky wrote:

    ColonelBill,

    The definition of "hyperbole", taken from dictionary.com:

    hy·per·bo·le

       [hahy-pur-buh-lee]

    noun Rhetoric .

    1.

    obvious and intentional exaggeration.

    2.

    an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as “to wait an eternity.”

    Other than "Apple threw the editors under the bus" -- a metaphor meant to signify Apple's abandoning a group of its customers that has come to rely upon Apple's FCP product for its livelihood -- which meets definition 2, none of the other words meet the definition of hyperbole.

    Okay, using an exterminator to rid a program of bugs maybe should not be taken literally either.

    Hoopla, buggy, flawed, foist, debacle, and hubris are strong words, yes, but hyperbole? No, I think they are accurate.

    Dan

  • Report this Comment On September 25, 2012, at 9:48 AM, lucasmonger wrote:

    "...from what I've read, Apple's replacement app in iOS 6 is so buggy it should come with an exterminator."

    OK. so if the author hasn't actualy used the Maps app, he's just relaying what other people are saying (and overblowing) on the internet. My advice, try it, you might like it. I

    Most people are just resistant to change. How many people resisted Facebook Timeline view until it was forced onto them?

    Quick show of hands, how many times have you used Google Maps for directions and it gave you bad advice?

    With my first-hand use, the addition of turn-by-turn, 3D, speed of vector graphics, and the seamless satellite views are all nice improvements over the slow bitmaps and messy stitching that Google Maps offers. Turn-by-turn alone was enough to make me happy. Unfortunately, people are more apt to complain when they're not happy than to post when things are just fine. Alas "Hey, the Maps app is OK" isn't quite splashy enough to make the headlines.

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