Horse sense from Jean-Louis Gassee about Apple’s $30B Maps fiasco.
This is more than piling on, or crying over spilled maps. We might want to think what this whole doing the right thing — only when caught — says about Apple’s senior management.
First, the technical side. Software always ships with fresh bugs, some known, some not. In this case, it’s hard to believe the Maps team didn’t know about some of the most annoying warts. Did someone or some ones deliberately underplay known problems? Or did the team not know. And if so, why? Too broad a net to cast and catch the bugs? Too much secrecy before the launch? (But Maps were demoed at the June WWDC.)
Second, the marketing organization. This is where messages are crafted, products are positioned, claims are wordsmithed. Just like engineers are leery of marketeers manhandling their precious creations, marketing people tend to take engineers’ claims of crystalline purity with, at best, polite cynicism. One is left to wonder how such a hot issue, Apple Maps vs. Google Maps, wasn’t handled with more care — before the blowup. And why, with inevitable comparisons between an infant product and a mature, world-class one, the marketing message was so lackadaisically bombastic.
And last, the CEO. Was trust in his team misplaced, abused? Were the kind of checks that make Apple’s supply chain work so well also applied to the Maps product, or was some ill side-effect of team spirit at play, preventing the much-needed bad news to reach the top?
We don’t need to know. But Apple execs do if they want the difficult birth of Apple Maps to be written in history as a wake-up call that put the top team back on track. I don’t want to think about the alternative.
Spot on. The first thought that occurred to me when the story first broke is that this wouldn’t have happened if Steve Jobs had been around. Why? Because the Maps team would have been too frightened to try to pull the wool over his eyes: and they would have known that it would have been futile even to try it on. So maybe the problem is that Tim Cook isn’t a fanatic, just a very competent ‘normal’ CEO?