November 27, 2012: Apple is firing the manager responsible for the disastrous Apple Maps app in iOS 6 after software that clumsily delivered annoyingly bad data to users around the world.
Richard Williamson, who oversaw Apple’s mapping team, gets an ax from Eddy Cue, who takes over the team.
Launching Apple Maps: A Historically Wrong Step
Apple Maps will remain one of the biggest missteps in Apple’s history. The debacle followed the death of Steve Jobs, when people were looking for any excuse to accuse the company of suffering from a drop in quality.
Unfortunately, the wrong Apple Maps gave these people plenty of ammunition. In addition to landscape distortion and landmark distortion, the Maps app has even suggested that people turn wrong across the driving lane at Fairbanks International Airport in Alaska.
Williamson wasn’t the only high-profile CEO to fall because of an Apple Maps error. Apple also fired Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iOS software, after rejecting a public apology. (Cupertino announced Williamson’s dismissal weeks after Forstal’s.)
To solve the Apple Maps problem, Apple CEO Tim Cook recommended that users temporarily use other mapping services. Cue, meanwhile, has asked digital map vendor TomTom NV to help fix landmarks and navigation data for Apple.
“Look, the first thing is that you’re embarrassed,” Cue said Fast Company a few years later, in connection with his response to the Maps. “Let’s deal with that one fact of emotion. These things mean a lot to us, we work really hard, so you are ashamed. We completely underestimated the product, its complexity. ”
Apple Maps since then…
After the disastrous launch of Apple Maps, Cupertino has made great strides to improve the service. The company began updating Apple Maps daily, introduced features like Flyover, and published a number of fascinating patents. (One example: trying to make navigation software more humane by referring to landmarks and street signs instead of just road names.)
Apple also bought mapping companies such as Coherent Navigation, which helped develop ultra-detailed GPS shapes accurate within centimeters as opposed to conventional meters. Apple has even asked permission to use drones to improve its mapping.
The company reportedly spent “billions” on updating its Maps application. And Cupertino continues to introduce improved versions of Apple Maps. iOS 15 introduced 3D views of major cities earlier this year, and more are on the way.
To this day, some people still invoke the early nightmare of Apple Maps as an example of technology that went wrong. However, it’s hard to blame Apple for fixing the problem like it did. Even if we never like someone to lose their job.
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