Skip to main content

Maps app is not the only Apple misstep

By Andrew Mayer, Special to CNN
September 29, 2012 -- Updated 1956 GMT (0356 HKT)
Apple customers are displeased with the company's new Maps app.
Apple customers are displeased with the company's new Maps app.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Andrew Mayer: The new Maps app on iPhone 5 is clearly worse than the old one
  • Mayer: Maps is an obvious misstep, but it isn't the only one Apple has made recently
  • He says incremental steps cannot substitute for boldness, like the creation of the iPod
  • Mayer: Apple's real problem is that its ability to "think different" might go away

Editor's note: Andrew Mayer is the chief strategist at Digital Entertainment Strategies, a technology consulting company. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMayer

(CNN) -- Take a close look at the icon that Apple created for their new Maps app and you'll notice a few things. It points out the location of Apple headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop, but the red pin has been replaced by a blue line, one that leads away from their main building and suggests that you make a hard right through the median to jump onto the freeway.

From a tactical point of view, in their growing fight against Google, rushing out a new map application made sense. But the app itself is clearly worse than the one it replaced, and an audience used to constant improvements and refinements isn't happy. Meticulous attention to detail, once the hallmark of the Apple brand, seems to have been pushed aside for corporate competition, leaving everybody wondering what's next.

Maps is the most obvious misstep, but it isn't the only one Apple has made recently.

Andrew Mayer
Andrew Mayer

There has been a trail of failures and dead ends the past few years that people don't talk nearly as much about. They include Mobile Me, Ping, Siri, Apple TV and the ongoing mess that is the desktop version of iTunes. And iCloud is clunky because it's about trying to change the way we work, whether we like it or not.

So what happened, and what does it mean for the future of the most successful technology company of our lifetime?

Opinion: Apple seems to have gotten a little bit lost

What Steve Jobs saw was that the true promise of technology was to combine software and hardware in a way that would create a rich user experience. Instead of giving users what they were asking for, he succeeded by constantly giving people things they didn't even know they wanted until they held it in their hands.

Now everyone has come to expect a certain kind of perfection and showmanship from Apple that can only happen when you're revealing things that are so new and different that users find themselves gasping in surprise and delight.

Apple has been able to do that for quite a while with a brilliant visionary at the helm. But having totally redefined the consumer electronics landscape, Apple now finds itself without a creative leader and caught in the expectations of its own success.

As users become more comfortable with the devices they have, there's a justified sense of entitlement that the application they've come to rely on will continue to provide the functionality they've come to expect. To put it another way, discovering that there's no longer transit directions when you're looking to find the bus home is never a nice surprise.

Despite some neat new features, the iOS 6 lacks any of the usual big ideas that take out the sting. Instead, the new operating system cleans up some dirty corners and puts on a fresh coat of digital paint to get ready for bigger changes down the road.

But slow and steady won't win the race. When it comes to incremental steps, Google, Amazon and Microsoft are all experts at software that may not start out great, amazing or different but clearly improves through iteration. And Google is busy buying companies like Zagats and Frommers to quickly corner the market on rich, valuable data in a way that Apple will never be able to.

Without the ability to launch a new platform as bold as the iPod, iPhone and iPad, it gets harder and harder for Apple to truly innovate. The problem isn't that Apple is failing to do what it has always done, it's that its ability to "think different" might go away.

While Apple, under the guidance of Tim Cook, will continue to create its beautiful, crafted combination of hardware and software for at least another decade, that will no longer be enough to continue to take the risks they need to in order to wow the world the way they have since Steve Jobs showed us the iPod 11 years ago.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Andrew Mayer.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT