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Sept. 21, 2012, 7:13 a.m.
Patrick Connolly Senior Analyst
A few points on the blowout following the launch of Apple Maps:
There have been rumors for months that the beta version wasn’t up to scratch so Apple must have known there would be issues. There is another side to this story and it may well be that Google has intelligently forced Apple to play its hand a little earlier than it would have wanted.
Questions have to be asked about the effort Apple has placed on developing a complete solution. Google continued to utilize TeleAtlas maps (up until last year in Europe) to buy itself time to develop a solution. Apple has been acquiring in this space since 2009, giving it ample time to do the same. Instead it has had to rely on third parties to fill the major gaps in its offering.
Don’t blame the partners: Multiplication of sources is essential in building geodata now, its how this data is aggregated and analyzed that defines the services. Look at Google - it combines a variety of sources such as Census data, geographical survey data, Map maker, user data, street view cars, etc. However, Google (and Nokia) have a huge advantage in that much of its data is sourced internally, making it much easier to build from the ground up.
Maps are not about TBT navigation anymore: As the use and value of maps is now moving to local search it is the ability to accurately source, georeference, index and aggregate dynamic data (often duplicate) in a searchable way that will define the winners and losers.
Errors are an inevitable and ongoing part of building maps/geodata: This is why services like TomTom’s MapShare and Google’s Map Maker exist. People forget that Google had similar problems and it has taken time for it to get to where it is today. It hasn’t helped Apple that there have never been so many people to catch so many mistakes in such a short space of time, with so many mediums on which to broadcast them.
Apple is a master of public relations, but it can’t hide the fact that this is a service that has taken others years to optimize. To catalyze the process, it may need to reassess its current geodata aggregation strategy and the resources assigned to this area, which may lead to a round of high profile hiring and acquisition. It’s also vital that it starts incorporating the millions of users of Apple products in a way that will sharpen the data quickly as well as enabling businesses to submit/correct their data.
Longer term, Apple doesn’t have the same resources as Google, and it will continue to rely on acquisitions and 3rd parties. If Apple can get its house in order and build a successful geodata engine, it may find over time that sourcing 3rd party data also has its advantages. Google isn’t the best at everything and with social and indoor becoming important parts of the pie, there may be benefits.
Anyone who doesn’t believe the importance of maps as a tightly integrated part of the overall mobile phone experience just got confirmation.