If Daring Fireball were still handing out Jackass of the Week awards, this piece by Joe Nocera in the New York Times might qualify. Which is a shame, because it’s by someone I usually respect as an insightful commentator, even if I don’t always agree with his conclusions.
Nocera contends the quality of the new Maps app is indicative of Apple’s focus on protecting market position at the expense of innovation:
you can see it in the decision to replace Google’s map application. Once an ally, Google is now a rival, and the thought of allowing Google to promote its maps on Apple’s platform had become anathema. More to the point, Apple wants to force its customers to use its own products, even when they are not as good as those from rivals. Once companies start acting that way, they become vulnerable to newer, nimbler competitors that are trying to create something new, instead of milking the old.
Yes, the quality of the maps program that ships with iPhone 5 and that you get when you upgrade anything to iOS 6 is not as good as the maps program that shipped previously. But that’s a single data point, and honestly, that’s a sign that they are innovating, which seems to be Nocera’s biggest concern that they’ll stop doing.
And if one thinks this is the first time in Apple history they’ve killed off something good (or even great) and replaced with something not as usable at the time it rolled out but that had the potential to become greater, one clearly missed the rollout of Mac OS X, the killing of the amazing Apple ][ line in favor of the non-expandable non-color Macintosh, replacing a mature AppleWorks with an iWork “suite” consisting of two programs, replacing ADB with the then-relatively-unknown-and-unsupported USB, and the list goes on. Even the Retina display was a liability not an asset for users of many third party programs at the time it launched.
The fact that Apple’s maps program isn’t as good as the program it replaced isn’t a sign that Apple has stagnated. It’s a sign that they’re continuing their innovative tendencies.
So a 915 word op-ed piece hinges on a grand total of two observations: Apple filed a patent lawsuit and the new Maps aren’t as good as the old ones. Oh, and Steve is dead, and he was obviously the source of all Apple innovation.