The Mis-Map Mishap

Time to play a little devil’s advocate. Last week, I wrote on Apple’s mishap with their new mapping feature. The criticism was in Apple’s attempt to do it all, even though they weren’t the best at the mapping software. But now my question is, what if it was all a part of the plan?

With the software update with the Apple Maps, users have virtually no choice but to utilize the new service. Now, Apple is set up for a huge comeback. Looking at the recent article in Harvard Business Review, important points were brought to attention.

In fact, the shortcomings of the new mapping tool may even be a necessary, if unfortunate, by-product of the initiative because the software Apple is developing internally and with its partners and new acquisitions relies on the accumulation of user experience. Reliability will improve as people use the iPhone maps and the software integrates the experience from the clouds of information.

This deep feedback will create opportunities to improve the new mapping software and functionality well beyond what would have been possible with the product that Apple previously borrowed from Google. The strategic goal looks forward: the crowd-sourcing benefits that internal control makes possible will compensate for the costs of enduring a few weeks of users’ complaints. In a real sense, Apple is following the experience of industry leaders such as Microsoft, which regularly frustrates users during it operating system and applications software upgrades by providing only partial backward integration — because it actively seeks to create new functionality that does not become constrained by prior design choices.

Now that Apple has released their mapping software and the complaints have been rolling in, their only move is up. Customers have been incessantly criticizing and complaining about Apple Maps. But since the software depends on the customer’s use, it will increasingly get better over time. Therefore, even though they initiated the problem, they dealt with the mistake humbly and swiftly and are now able to reap the rewards of the increasingly successful software without much work on their end. They put the problem in the consumer’s hands (risky) and allowed it to rebound from the release to the activation.

The move seems risky and whether or not it is actually a “move” seems questionable. If it is, what impression lasts longer? The release of a software system that wasn’t up to par with its competitor? Or, a company who handled a messy situation with respect and humility and moved forward with a system that fixes itself?

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