Why Apple introduced maps (before it was ready) and why it’s brilliant for us all

So, the iPhone 5 has been launched along with iOS 6, Apple’s latest operating system for its mobile devices. As always a few users have had hiccups upgrading, and Apple has already released a further update or two to deal with reported issues. All as per usual, although some tech journalists having a slow news day have gone to town on this.

Probably the biggest noise, though, has been reserved for Apple’s decision to ditch Google Maps as part of their OS and replace it with their own Apple Maps. (For those users who just cannot deal with change, there’s a very simple and obvious answer, of course: keep using Google Maps – you’ll find it on your mobile browser at http://www.google.com/maps.  Oh, and within a few days, a Google Maps app will be available in the App store). There have been some glitches with the new maps: one or two cities in the middle of oceans, the Eiffel Tower flattened across Paris, and a few very wonky looking roads and bridges. These are being corrected quite quickly by Apple.

The biggest loss has been the absence of public transport options (again, users who really, really need that: almost every city in the world has an app for public transport users, so just download your one). Apple will surely add this into their version soon. This time next year, we’ll all have forgotten the rocky start and be using whichever map programme we want to (and might not even be able to see a difference between them).

For me, though, there’s a bigger issue here. Why? Why would Apple do this, and risk the reputational hit they’ve taken?

I believe the answer is simple: augmented reality. AR, as it is known, is all about our ability to see the data layer associated with every physical object in the world. It’s what you’re using when you’re watching your car’s GPS/Satnav device label the roads you’re driving on. In smartphones, it’s the various apps (including Google Maps) that label all the roads, paths, buildings and transport links in the world. The promise of AR is huge: your smartphone knows where you are, and even which direction you’re facing, and because of the link up to the maps database, it also has access to information about everything you can currently see. If advertisers can tap into that same system, they can be given the power to push information to you that is geo-specific, time-sensitive and tailored not just for you, but for-you-where-you-are-right-now!

And Apple wants a piece of that action. To do so requires that they build and control a map database, onto which can be added all the intelligence of AR, big data and analytics.

Apple’s venture into Maps is not just a corporate game of ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ with Google. It is an astute, pre-emptive, intelligent move into the future, and the starting point for a global play for geolocated data, personal communication and data analytics. It’s also great for all of us that this new AR space will not be dominated by one behemoth: Google. Thanks, Apple.

So, while you’re either laughing at Apple, or trying to see whether Apple Maps has sorted out your part of the world yet, let me ask you one simple question: is YOUR company doing anything with geolocated data, personal communication and data analytics? What’s your strategy for this space, which very definitely is ‘the next big thing’?

By the way, at TomorrowToday, our answer to that question comes in the form of two people. They are the two newest members of our team, both brought in as associates to help us play smarter in this space. Mike Saunders and Keith Holdt are both world experts in this new digital world. Our Strategic Insights team, headed up by Catherine Garland, also has AR and big data very much in their sights, as they help our team and our clients keep up with these trends. We’d invite you to connect with us to find out more about what you can be doing to be competitive in a world where we all have the radical power to know everything.

0 thoughts on “Why Apple introduced maps (before it was ready) and why it’s brilliant for us all”

  1. Graeme says:

    Here’s a Harvard Business Review adding to the thought that Apple has made the right call here: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/10/why_apple_made_the_right_call_on_maps.html

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