In an report today about Apple firing Maps manager Richard Williamson over the poor launch of its Maps app, it was also noted that it was looking for ways to improve its point-of-interest data. Specifically, it is looking to ‘outside mapping experts’ and ‘prodding’ mapping company TomTom NV to help it refine that data.
Apple’s POI data in Maps is one of the major complaints that users have had with the service. The data was provided by a bunch of partners, including Yelp for POI, and has displayed many inaccuracies that have led to improper directions being given and wildly incorrect locations being displayed. Though TomTom is a provider of data to Apple, we understand that was not the primary source for POI data in the US and it looks like that may be about to change. Still, the Bloomberg piece appears to indicate that Apple wants TomTom to help it ‘fix’ the data that it’s been providing.
As TomTom is an enormous provider of mapping data, especially overseas, this makes a lot of sense. Its POI data is usually more accurate and deeper in scope than Yelp’s and it is constantly being refined by its crowd mapping tool. But if it’s got major issues, then Apple would definitely be better off auditing it.
Apple is obviously taking responsibility for the state of Maps. CEO Tim Cook publicly apologized, the company has been restructured and ‘fixer’ Eddy Cue has been put in charge, and now the person directly responsible has been fired.
As I commented when I wrote about the Maps issues back in September, Apple is now a services company and it needs to own that:
The reason I write articles about iMessage or iCloud email outages (and they happen at frequent intervals) is that Apple needs to be held accountable for its services if it’s going to be a services company.
Maps is an essential feature of the iPhone, and smartphones in general. It needs to be there and it needs to be right.
Yes, it was tactically necessary for Apple to switch to providing its own maps, but it still needs to be held responsible for that decision. Taking Apple to task on the execution of its maps product isn’t persecution (as long as its executed with real data and not hyperbole) and any defense of its reasons needs to take into account that a lot of people who don’t give a flying fart about Apple’s corporate strategy are being affected here.
It’s good to see Apple taking action. Now, it needs to make some serious headway on the accuracy of its maps.
Update: With the phrase “prodding digital maps provider TomTom NV to fix landmark and navigation data it shares with Apple,” Bloomberg’s report appears to indicate that TomTom’s data is faulty, which is interesting, as we hadn’t heard that it was a primary provider of POI data. If it is, then that would make it a big part of why Apple’s overseas data is so bad.
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