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CEO Tim Cook apologizes for “falling short” on Apple Maps

After a week of parody social media accounts, jokes from late-night TV comedians and ribbing from competitors about its Maps app, Apple (s AAPL) CEO Tim Cook has spoken. The message? He’s “extremely sorry” that Apple’s new Maps app, which debuted with iOS 6, isn’t very good yet. In an open letter published to the web Friday morning, Cook apologized and promised to work harder.

Addressing customers, he wrote, “With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment” to world-class products. “We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better,” he said.

He also offered users an explanation of why Apple moved away from the original mapping product, made by Google(S GOOG), that most customers know was working just fine before Apple took it away.

“As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up,” Cook wrote.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the letter is when he points customers to other mapping products to use until Apple’s maps data gets better:

“While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing(s msft), MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.”

The open letter is a move we haven’t seen from Cook yet in his tenure as CEO of Apple. His predecessor, Steve Jobs, used the format to communicate with customers and fans on topics like digital rights management and music, and Adobe’s(s adbe) Flash and the mobile experience.

And it’s a good move — he needed to say something. Even if all he can offer is an apology, customers needed to know that Apple understands that the product is not up to par or what they’ve come to expect from Apple. Though he’s not exactly forthcoming about why the company felt it needed to build its own maps products with those new features: He doesn’t explain that this is really boils down to Apple putting its competition with a rival, Google, ahead of its customers’ needs. And the apology indicates that he knows that move has backfired.

Unfortunately for customers, this problem isn’t just going to go away. As Cook mentions, the maps data will get better, but not overnight.

25 Responses to “CEO Tim Cook apologizes for “falling short” on Apple Maps”

  1. UncleFloyd

    Parry Lage got it: ” …the key issue was that Google really did not want to let Apple put turn-by-turn in, or was asking a lot in terms of branding and user information. Apple realized that its map future was at the whims of a smartphone OS competitor.”
    It comes down, again, to a pissing contest where the customer is the pot. Apple wants control over it’s customer-base data (metrics, privacy,…) and Google wants more from Apple.

  2. Don Smith

    OK. Good you admit you screwed up. But the fact ofthe matter is, I like iPhone and I was dependent on maps. I made a mistake and I trusted your company with updates but I was wrong this time. I never imagined that you can make such big blunders. I forgot you are also a tech company, not GOD. My mistake was jumping on to iOS6 as soon as it was released. I was an IDIOT.

    So can you please Mr Cook, allow me, an regular iphone user to roll back to freaking iOS 5.1.1?? I will re-install iOS 6, when your maps are ready and out of beta.

  3. Erica – You’re exactly right: Apple needed to say *something*. It needed to let its customers know it felt their pain. It tried spin: “We launched this new map service knowing it is a major initiative and that we are just getting started with it,” a spokeswoman told AllThingsD. But the brush-off backfired. And so, when Apple realized the story wasn’t dying down, the time came for the CEO to step up.

  4. Tim’s clearing the decks for the iPad Mini, plus he can afford to be nice the iPhone 5 is selling very well despite what the tech and financial press say, and iOS 6 upgrades are thru the roof.

  5. Checked the maps again… Maybe the old maps had more information on various spots, I do not know. But the new maps are cleaner. And the names are more readable. I checked for both Taipei and Moscow, places where I know. Taiwan street names previously were sometimes there and sometimes not for some pretty big streets, if it is not the capital of the country. So overall I would say the new maps are better. They are not “wow, so cool, Apple did it again, amazing”. They are just better, not much but better. The only thing I am missing is the street view, which was allowed in Taiwan (not in Moscow, so there I am not missing anything in the new maps).

  6. Karma payback for Apple’s litigious nature, and for being un-free.
    Instead of creating new things, there’s an idea vacuum now – going the way of the old bitter pre-Marisa Yahoo – cutting off other’s heads to look tall.

    Share price drop, slumping Iphone 5 sales, consumer dissatisfaction with IOS6, and Maps fiasco .

    Apple is like China – providing a walled garden, but restricting speech and freedom of its users, and restricting apps because of their political or activist content. Add to this monopolistic app store, 30% bakshish on everything sold, arbitrary policy changes without notice, nepotistic favorites for vendors, and more.

    Android is like America – freedom first, not restricting apps because of their content.

    Freedom forever.

  7. I think Apple had the brilliant idea to let somebody else do the data “manufacturing” and “just” put in a nice design to use it, works with HW so why not SW? The problem is, data is not a block of Aluminum. They seem to be hell bent to learn that lesson, Siri, Maps, Passbook, {Services} ….

  8. Apple is not a “technology company” they take products from other companies, take ideas from other companies, slap a logo on it and market it… this has been happening since the company first started.

    Apple didn’t create smart phones and weren’t even the first ones to put one on the market. Thank you Nortel Networks from creating the grand-daddy of all PDAs and Smart Phones. Thanks Compaq Computers for making the first PDAs and Smart Phones available to the consumer base.

    What is Apple? Marketing. They started off using Motorola technology meant for corporations – not home users. People paid large for these pieces of junk. Today, they use Intel processors, Intel Motherboards, and Linux. And people still pay more than 100% on these Intel machines … to you people pissing your money into Apple’s bank accounts – wake up… you’ve all been had.

    • Technology company or marketing company, you just can’t argue with success! Yes, Apple goofed on Maps — they will make it right, trust me. And if you think that Apple users the world over are just a bunch of wonks who don’t know any better, then you’re living under a rock. You don’t like Apple? Fine – don’t buy Apple products. It’s a choice, but don’t try to make Apple out to be a charade of some kind. You really (obviously) don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to spelling S-U-C-C-E-S-S.

    • Please stop this tired argument.

      Apple has done an amazing job across the spectrum of technologies.

      Apple has acquired some amazing companies to build their arsenal of technology: PA Semiconductor, Siri, Liquid Metal, …

      I am surprised they did not just buy a mapping company, go figure.

      Even before such acquisitions Apple was a technology company. You bring great disrespect to their Engineers and Scientists by saying otherwise.

      Apple is technology company plain and simple. If they are not a technology company neither is Microsoft, and in fact nor Google.

  9. “Even if all he can offer is an apology.”

    Erica, he does a whole lot more than that – to help his customers, he steers them to his competition! That’s a courageous move for a CEO and your statement that all he can do is offer an apology is flat-out untrue. You can do better than that.

  10. Brian Eisley

    “As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up”

    Or, you could have just given up your spat with Google (or, to be more precise, Steve’s spat with Google), and helped them put those features, which already exist in their Android app, into yours. But nooooooooo.

    • Parry Lage

      I don’t like the new maps as well as the the ones based on Google data. However, you all need to read a bit more before making comments that make you look ignorant. Ok, Jobs wanted to go thermonuclear on Android!

      As for maps, this saga goes back to 2009 when things like turn-by-turn appeared on Android and Google would not let Apple add it to iOS. Yes, some people say that if Google got more prominent branding (although their name was on every map view already) and Apple added things like latitude, they would have received the features.

      However, since Apple does not put its brand in the app either, and the fact that most people thought Google made the maps anyway, the key issue was that Google really did not want to let Apple put turn-by-turn in, or was asking a lot in terms of branding and user information. Apple realized that its map future was at the whims of a smartphone OS competitor.

      Geez, despite all the legal crap and disagreements, the folks at Google and Apple still work with each other on different things. You can still post directly to YouTube from your camera roll. If you add the Google youtube app, links will still open in the app versus going to the web. Google is still the default search engine in Safari.

      It is sad that Apple’s maps are not up to snuff and that they moved away from Google, but from a strategic standpoint, they had no choice once Google started putting its OS ahead of its traditional services that it offered on the web and to partners like Apple.

    • How about if Apple wanted turn-by-turn directions and for obvious reasons, Google did not want to license this feature to Apple, so Apple had to create their own app?

      Did you think of that, Brian Eisley? Nooooooooo.

    • I will admit to being an Android partisan. While I’m uneasy about both Apple and Google’s approach to business, I favor Google because they’re far more committed to open standards. That said, both companies are behaving like children.

      Google didn’t need more prominent branding, since every map view had their logo and everyone already knows they have excellent maps. Meanwhile, Apple clearly cares more about their closed, carefully controlled ecosystem than they do about providing their users with the best services.

      Apple has been this way ever since the Macintosh was introduced, and it’s working for their investors. But their users get shafted. Most of them don’t seem to care as long as they can get their work done, and Steve understood that. He would never have let Apple Maps out the door in its current state.

      Ever since he died, I’ve been waiting for Apple to stumble, since they’ve never been successful without him, his deep understanding of what users want, and his reality distortion field. I think the whole Maps kerfuffle is the beginning of a long, painful decline.

  11. Tim Acheson

    More excuse than apology.

    Apology? It starts out as an apology. He could and should have left it there. The real purpose of this corporate damage-limitation exercise rapidly becomes clear: it is an excuse.

    “we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up”

    After the excuse comes the marketing hype — Apple is addicted to hype, and the corporation literally cannot resist wrecking what would have been a sincere apology by trying to spin it with statements like this:

    “There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps…”

    The most sensible part of the diatribe was this:

    “While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing”