Nine times out of 10, when a company makes an error, the polite and politically correct thing to do is to make an apology, correct the mistake, then move on.
I thought that might be the appropriate action for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to take, too, following the Apple Maps debacle that has frustrated far too many users of iOS 6 devices, (which most notably includes the new iPhone 5). After actually reading Tim Cook’s letter of apology, though, I’ve officially changed my mind.
Maybe sometimes the best thing a company can do when it makes a mistake is to say nothing.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m Apple-agnostic. I won’t defend the company to my dying breath, because at the end of the day it’s still just a collection of really cool toys. On the flip side, I don’t think the company is the devil and has designs to take over the world.
It’s a company. I’m an investor and a market journalist. It is what it is, no more, and no less.
I gotta be honest, though … the letter came across a little smarmy.
You might or might not have gotten that from the apology. If you didn’t, then maybe you need to look at it again, this time with my personal footnotes and thoughts added where appropriate.
Here’s the letter, in bold:
At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.
We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. 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.*
* — Apple might want to be careful with its definitions of the words “create,” “new,” and “ground up.” The company acquired C3 Technologies, Placebase, data from TomTom, web-based mapping outfit Poly9, listings from Yelp (NYSE:YELP) and more, all to build its new mapping app that — bluntly — is a mess. In retrospect, one has to wonder if Apple’s unwillingness to actually create anything new from the ground up, and efforts to instead try to make a bunch of other things work together, is the core reason for Maps’ failure now.
There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations.* The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get**, and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you.
* — Searched for half a billion locations? How many of them ended up getting lost? It’s not exactly a stat worth touting.
** — “The more our customers use our Maps, the better it will get.” Really? I’m no computer engineer, but I think the only way for maps to get better is if programmers open up the software and, you know, make it less crappy. I conceptually get what he’s saying — the more it’s used, the more the bugs get worked out. I’m just not sure why the full-scale launch is also the beta test.
While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, 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.*
* — Thanks for stating the obvious, but it misses the point of having a Maps app on the device in the first place. That being said, is it just me, or is it a tad ironic that he’s sending users back to the very source he was trying to steer them clear of with the new Maps feature?
Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world.* We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.
* — I’m calling BS here. It would seem everything Apple is doing is actually aimed at making the company the most profitable in the world, regardless of the customer experience. Unexpected things happen. Problems arise. This is a little more than an unforeseen snafu. This is a product that wasn’t ready for prime time, but was launched anyway. The sad part is, launching it before it was ready has done more damage than good.
Frankly, the whole apology would have seemed a lot more sincere had Cook also not peppered the letter with reasons suggesting he doesn’t actually owe anyone an apology. It’s kind of like Steve Jobs telling iPhone 4 users “Don’t hold it that way” when they figured out its antenna didn’t work very well in certain positions.
Maybe the two are cut from the same cloth after all.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.