Just in case you didn’t think that justice had been served in the iOS 6 Maps app boondoggle, take solace in the fact that Apple is still firing people. Unnamed sourced told Bloomberg News that Apple Senior Vice President Eddie Cue recently sacked Richard Williamson, the manager directly in charge of the mapping team. The New York Times followed up on the Bloomberg report and revealed that said sacking happened just before Thanksgiving. Why not just wait until Christmas, Eddie, and really add insult to injury?
The more hardcore Apple fanboys would probably argue that Williamson deserved it. I mean, have you ever seen Apple Maps? You know, the ones that look like surrealist paintings, that couldn’t even get the location of the Washington Monument correct, that omit entire cities from the database, that placed other cities underwater. The list goes on, but inevitably, the biggest problem is simply that Apple Maps get people lost. That’s like an iPhone that prevents you from talking to your friends. Tim Cook issued a rare public apology over the whole affair.
Practically since the app launched back in September, Apple’s been scrambling to make things right again. Williamson’s departure comes just a month after a major management shake up at Apple. Forstall was Williamson’s boss—or maybe even his boss’s boss—and ruled over the entire iOS universe. Apple’s industrial design prince Jony Ive took over the part of Forstall’s role and is now in charge of something called “Human Interface.” Some say that Ive is going to change everything about how Apple’s software looks. But will he change how it works?
No matter how many managers Apple fires, the maps app isn’t going to get better all by itself. The famously secretive company has said that it will improve the maps with software updates as time goes on, and we’ll probably never know how exactly that’s going to happen. What we do know is that Apple is continuing to work with the satellite navigation specialists at TomTom to improve the data behind the maps. TomTom renewed its commitment to make the maps work in September, and according to a report in AllThingsD in the wake of the botched launch the maps team has been “under lockdown right now working to fix it.” Nevertheless, two months after launch, iOS 6 Maps is largely the same.
There’s a chance that Google will light a fire under Apple’s ass. A couple of weeks ago, news emerged that Google was putting the finishing touches on a replacement maps app for iOS, one much like the app that Apple replaced with its own crappy app. Though there were rumors that Apple would ban Google Maps from its app store, that looks increasingly unlikely, as it would probably be a PR nightmare for a company that’s too often accused of being oppressive. When Google Maps does come out, everybody will probably download it—just like they downloaded the YouTube app after Apple canceled its native YouTube-powered video app—and the bitching about Apple’s crappy maps will probably quiet down.
This leads me to believe that Apple’s not actually in any hurry to fix the maps app. Firing people is an excellent first step, because it presents this image to the public and, more importantly, to Wall Street that actions are being taken to remedy the issue and make sure it doesn’t happen again. But it’s not like the ridiculous maps stopped anybody from buying the iPhone 5. In fact, they sold faster than any iPhone ever! Apple doesn’t want to depend on Google, which is why the company decided to build its own maps app in the first place. However, if Google will provide a stopgap solution and shut the fanboys up for a few months while a new team rebuilds the iOS 6 Maps, well that would be just fine. The company can mop up the bloodshed in the meantime with hundred dollar bills.