Few will argue Apple Maps is a superior map app to Google Maps. But Apple is a lot newer to the game, and for the company, it’s a core component of a long-term, far-reaching strategy.
The question remains, however: will it ever be any good?
Sitting down for an interview with Fast Company, Eddy Cue believes so. The SVP of Internet software and services for Apple says, first of all, “there’s no one developing maps in a significant way except us and Google.” Second, work on Maps “never ends”—the whole thing “is extremely dynamic, which makes it an interesting problem.”
Today, Apple has thousands of people working on Maps. It’s very expensive, says Cue, and it doesn’t have a direct revenue stream.
But it’s important to Apple because it’s not just an app. It’s a platform.
“If you think about mobility in general, Maps is a core organizing structure for the physical world in which you interact,” Craig Federighi, SVP of software engineering says. “So many, many third-party apps incorporate mapping, as an understanding of where you are in relation to others, as a way to do all sorts of things—put photos on a map to help you relive a trip, get a heads up about when you need to leave, or see which of your friends is in a certain area. Just as our operating system is a platform or a foundation, having a map of the physical world is a foundation for building all kinds of value on the platform.”
Both agree that when Maps launched in 2012, it was an embarrassing fiasco. But it was also a valuable learning moment for the company.
“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,” notes Federighi. “We made some significant changes to all of our development processes because of it,” added Cue.
Maps is getting better, they insist, and we agree (even if progress has been gradual).
“We have to be honest with ourselves,” says Cue. “We’re not perfect, and we’re going to make mistakes. There’s an evolving range of issues that customers have raised that we haven’t addressed, but we’d like to address.”