Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi open up about the Apple Maps embarrassment, learning from failure

Fast Company sat down with Apple executives Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi who pen up about learning from Apple’s failures.

A few snippets:

FC: What does it do to the development team, and to your plans, when something like Maps gets introduced and it’s derided immediately? [Maps was introduced in September, 2012, to universal scorn.] Does that slow down what you were hoping to do?

Cue: Well, look, the first thing is that you’re embarrassed. Let’s just deal with that one fact of emotion. I mean, these things mean a lot to us. We work really hard, and so you’re embarrassed. In the case of Maps, what it causes you to do is ask: How important is this? Is this a place where we need to triple down or quadruple down, or did we make that mistake because it’s not that important to us? We had long discussions at the ET [executive team] level about the importance of Maps, where we thought Maps was going in the future, and could we treat it as a third-party app? I mean, we don’t do every app. We’re not trying to create a Facebook app. We think they do a great job. We always came back to the conclusion that Maps was not one of those. It’s an integral part to the whole platform. There were so many features that we wanted to build that are dependent on that technology, and we couldn’t see ourselves being in a position where that was something that we didn’t own.

Federighi: So it was a triple down, and it was a huge learning moment for Apple. Maps presented us with some relatively new challenges, where we needed to develop competencies that we initially didn’t appreciate, areas where we needed some depth, where we needed to take a new approach. We had great approaches for some of the other problems we’d been solving, but this one had some characteristics that meant we had to take some different approaches. So we had to ask: What do we have to learn?

FC: There’s a perception that there are more of [mistakes] than in the past.

Federighi: A world where people do not care about the quality of their experience is not a good world for Apple. A world where people care about those details and want to complain about them is the world where our values shine. That is our obsession. If people were like, “That’s good enough for me” …well, there are a lot of people who can provide that kind of experience.

Tons more in the full article – recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple needed to own Maps. It’s unfortunate it launched in such a way as it’ll take many years for the stank to wear off for some people. But, eventually, if Apple keeps improving the already long since vastly-improved Maps, the odor surrounding its launch will subside.

Apply the following quotes to vehicles or anything else Apple makes or might make. Apple’s “owning the primary technologies” is crucial.

I’ve always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do. – Steve Jobs, October 12, 2004

[Apple’s] reason for being is the same as it’s always been — to make the world’s best products that really enrich people’s lives. That hasn’t changed. And we do that through owning the primary technologies. — Apple CEO Tim Cook, August 9, 2016

SEE ALSO:
CEO Cook discusses Apple secrecy, company values, the future, and more – August 10, 2016

27 Comments

  1. Then the question is, why on earth would you release something so shitty to begin with?

    The only reason I can think of is that Apple now thinks of itself as a Compaq or Osborne.

    1. Well I always wondered if the people at the top ever had taken Maps for a spin outside Cupertino before to decide if it was true ready or not. It seems disingenuous of Eddie Cue to say Maps wasn’t treated as the important app it was since they were replacing a perfectly usable Google Maps which had already established a certain experience threshold and Maps at first was way below that threshold. And in some ways still catching up. How do you miscalculate like that? Anytime you substitute one kind of performing app for another it’d better be a step up, and not one way down. I do like Maps a lot now and never succumbed to installing Google Maps. But I hope this is another case that Apple will note far into the future as a cautionary tale in all area’s of their business execution.

      1. Steve Jobs once said at the executive level, there are no excuses. For Scott Forstall, there was no excuse and out the door he went. After that there was an executive shuffle, which hopefully reduced the lack of communication that led to that disaster. You gotta give them credit – Apple didn’t shy away from admitting failure, then getting back up to continue. Microsoft never seems to learn from their mistakes, although that is thankfully starting to change; Apple seems to learn (sometimes gradually like cloud) from their mistakes.

        1. Well said. In hindsight the looming problem was so clear and how it could have gotten past them in the first place indicates Forstall was leading his teams too much in isolation while delivering assurances he could not keep. They also seemed to have missed a few strategic ET meetings in which the significance of Maps had yet to be properly vetted out. In that instance I think the blame could be moved around to include all.

      1. I should add that Apple perceived themselves to be on an unalterable deadline (the worst kind) with Apple Maps as they did not want to have to renew their license with Google to include their Google Maps app with iOS. There was a lot of anxiety and anger over Google ripping off iOS when they created the Android GUI. I expect a lot of the impetus was due to Steve Jobs’ vow of ‘thermonuclear war’ against Google.

        In reality is would not have been a BFD to let Apple Maps go public a few months later, as the end of the Google license was a few away. And so what if Google Maps continued as the default for another year, considering the inadequately tested alpha quality of Apple Maps? It’s a sad tale of rushed software due to an imaginary unalterable deadline.

        Reality is in the mind of the beholder.

      2. Wow. Troll haters out in legions today. Or someone w access to multiple email accounts multi-voting.

        The truth is, Apple had no choice but to “damn the torpedoes and go full steam ahead” on their own maps. Ultimately, they got where they needed to be. In the meantime, they learned a good lesson. In the end, no harm, no foul.

        1. We have at least one certifiable psycho-troller around here. They’re the clown to make fun of, the impetus to post worthless crap rant warz, fill up the comments pages, ad nauseam. For all we know, this persona is a marketing strategy of MDN.

          My general attitude toward chatting and commenting is: If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. That includes dealing with the trolls. Enjoy trampling them. Enjoy ripping on their cowardice, personal problem infestations, self-loathing, masochism. Etc.

          1. Ancient Greeks could vote to banish a certain number of citizens each year. Personally, I think that approach makes huge sense and would strengthen democracy against those who would spoil it with their inanity. A certain risk of banishment would keep a lot of idiots in check.

            It would be nice if MDN permitted its regular, loyal, respectful guests to collectively banish those whom we feel undermine the respectful discourse intended for this type of blog. If MDN banished a few trolls or inane posters periodically, it would do this website a lot of good.

            Of course, the same could be achieved if MDN were to apply a small amount of responsible curating…

            1. Occasionally MDN does toss out the tossers. But the nature of at least this instantiation of WordPress is that troll rats can chew a new hole here under another anonymous coward nick. Thus a game of whack-a-troll.

              What to do with psychos (on the higher end of the pathological spectrum) within an ideal society has been on my mind for years. I’m an advocate for enabling people’s best selves. Even psychos have useful talents and skills. I’m all for locking up the loonies away from their objects of damage, but also putting them to useful work. ‘Silence of the Lambs’ of course comes to mind, but with out special privileges. Sorry psychos.

          1. Pancho,

            In case you have not noticed, a number of posters here do not make comments that merit a rational, objective, lucid, cogent …and, I might add, respectful… counter arguments. I am all for giving people the benefit of the doubt. But egregious offenders are essentially self-elected candidates for censorship or banishment. You comment is a _non sequitur_; it does not follow from what I said. Cheers.

  2. The stank is still emanating, unfortunately. It takes YEARS for Apple Maps to learn streets in new neighborhoods. Literally years. The people build houses, move in, mail is delivered yet Maps is clueless. It also sends me to old locations for restaurants. It still has zero clue about Myrtle Beach, SC, after nearly 5 years of sending in updates.

    So yeah, triple-down? I won’t argue as I’m sure they’ve been working. But I wouldn’t put appleMaps up against googleMaps for a second.

    Indeed, the only reason I use aMaps, which I do almost exclusively, is because I don’t like NSAoogle tracking every aspect of my life.

    Maybe it’s time to quadruple down?

    1. Apple Maps, much like Apple Music, is an unmitigated disaster. FIVE years after launch and Myrtle Beach is still messed up on Apple Maps. Tim Cook must be VERY proud.

      Oh, and Eddy Cue still has a job. Explain that!

      1. Apple maps — at this point — is NOT “an unmitigated disaster”

        Just this morning I was on a business trip to Dallas, TX. The “navigator” of the group was using Google maps for routing. That system was taking us by the most circuitous route imaginable. Finally, another individual in the car pulled up Apple Maps and got us a routing that took the least time and distance. Google’s routing would have taken us 5-10 times as long — seriously.

        No mapping software is perfect — or even close. But, on an average, worldwide basis I’d stack Apple Maps against any other today.

        1. So we are stuck with an uncomfortable reality: when routing to somewhere relatively unknown, we have to check against *both* Apple and Google Maps and compare their results.

          Not just routing either; one time the ETAs to a cottage location had Google Maps claiming 1 hour 30 minutes, while Apple Maps claimed 2 hours 15 minutes. They were the exact same route, and no traffic, so I don’t know why the huge discrepancy.

    1. Exactly this. One thing we forget is that Apple’s mapping accuracy is currently held hostage by their provider: TomTom. For 8 months a new bridge in my city wasn’t in Apple Maps, but it wasn’t in TomTom’s either. As soon as TomTom updated theirs to include the bridge, Apple Maps had it too.

  3. Why even talk about whether it was an important product or not? If there was any real, deep question as to whether it was/is an important product or not they NEVER should have shipped it (or even developed it) in the first place! You should NEVER develop and ship a product that you have no idea whether it is an important product or not. That’s an asinine discussion to have after the fact.

    And, at this point, who really cares about their embarrassment or that they shipped a alpha (not even beta) product. The important things are
    1) fix it ASAP
    2) make sure something like that never happens again.
    3) move on.

    Steve was never one to worry about, or wallow in, the past. Hell, he didn’t even think that Apple should keep around a set of every Mac ever built. He didn’t think that they should celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Mac as that was about the past 25 years and not the next 25 years.

    Those three things are the ONLY important things to do after you ship a bungled product. Discussing hurt feelings or anything else other than those three things are a complete waste of time!

    1. Apple simply doesn’t have the data and experience to “fix it”. The only thing they can do is throw tons of money at it and it’ll still take years to get up to par with Google Maps, or maybe it just never will. I live in Warsaw, Poland and it’s terrible here. Even when I went back to the Bay Area last month, where you’d think they’d have it pretty locked in, it sucked, hard. I just switched to Google Maps because I knew it would work. Not worth the frustration to “stay in the ecosystem”.

  4. The maps app in iOS 9 included some limited feedback functionality, which was a step in the right direction. The iOS10 betas have increased this functionality even further, to the point where regular users should easily be able to clearly report most issues. However, the volume of issues reported, or how quickly they get addressed, is still problematic. Google enables people to become “trusted” editors of their map, enabling outside local enthusiasts to do a lot of the work for them. And now Apple is collecting data with vans much like the google cars. It won’t be too long before they have a massive fleet of UAVs canvasing the whole world on a regular basis.

  5. Maybe I am being harsh but Eddie and Craig are the smiling goofballs I see introducing embarrassingly dull software with giddy excitement. So when, as two days ago, Maps took me around 12 blocks in circles, getting progressively more lost and more completely incorect, telling me I was at streets that clearly were not what she thought they were, when the actual directions were “turn left, go three blocks, your destination is right in front of you.” Instead we went in circles for two miles. Maps had a complete breakdown. All I could picture were those too tight red or purple shirtails hanging out under the smiling faces of mediocrity. “Apple. We make watchbands and emoji’s. We like to dance to bad music. What did you expect?”

  6. Okay, a decent article on how “Apple learned from this mistake” … but where’s the linkage to today’s problems?

    For example, the Mac Pro “Trash Can” wasn’t mentioned even once.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.