The Mapping Advantage


The Apple vs. Google mapping controversy has been clearly defined, but a cartography expert weighs in with an in-depth analysis.  The problem?  Partly that Google had a 400-year head start.

Interestingly, when it comes to maps, these two companies and growing rivals seemed to have switched characters.  Apple has always been well-known for the tactile and personal nature of its products; Steve Jobs was famous for saying that people could not appreciate an Apple product design on paper — it was only when they held it that they would discover its power.  Google, in turn, has based its advantages on a fundamental belief that most everything can be solved by an algorithm — including the industry problem of how to hire more women into technology companies.

So it’s interesting to see that Apple’s miscue was its lack of human touch:

Perhaps the most egregious error is that Apple’s team relied on quality control by algorithm and not a process partially vetted by informed human analysis. You cannot read about the errors in Apple Maps without realizing that these maps were being visually examined and used for the first time by Apple’s customers and not by Apple’s QC teams.  

Google made a similar mistake, and solved it partly by turning to its user base to help improve the quality and accuracy of its maps, and these users eventually contributed about 400 years of expertise.  Assuming Apple can find its way through their current misdirection, one wonders at the products they might create if they can turn the passion of their users into product contributions.

Design, InnovationAlexander Ooms