Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tom Cook's great test: the response to Apple maps.

Contrary to Joe Nocera's impression, Steve Jobs' Apple screwed up a lot. MobileMe wasn't the only disaster; even iCloud was a regression. OS X Lion was nothing to write home about. Apple did better under threat, worse when they felt confident. Ultimately, of course, Jobs cruel genius coupled with unprecedented power over a public company meant Apple escaped mediocrity.

Post-Jobs most of us expect Apple to behave more like a typically dysfunctional publicly traded company. We expect more products like iOS maps and Siri -- heavily marketed but only marginally useful. (Under Jobs Apple buried flops quickly.)

Of course there's still a chance Cook can find a way to escape this mediocrity. I'm watching for how Apple responds to user submitted map corrections. 

Historically Apple seems to ignore users. Even respected developers have a hard time getting their bug reports reviewed. Google, to their credit, has responded to every map correction I've made. Sometimes I get a response in a week or two, sometimes in a month or two, but I always find out which corrections were accepted and which were rejected. (So far 5/6 accepted, I think the other one had already been fixed.)

This is something Cook can change. If Apple provides feedback to users on the fate of their corrections, then I'll be hopeful that Cook can chart a new post-Jobs course. If they don't then they're on the fast track to Microsoft-land.

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