Apple’s strategy for Maps app: revealed?

Here’s an interesting take from Slate.com on the possible reasons behind Apple’s release of the quickly-becoming-controversial Maps app:

One key datapoint is The Verge’s reporting that there was over a year left on the existing Apple/Google maps deal, which tells us that this was a deliberate strategic decision on Apple’s part and not some kind of last-minute breakdown in negotiations. The other is my colleague Will Oremus’ point that Google keeps rolling out new features including awesome new mapping of the world beneath the sea.

What [Apple has] actually decided to do is much riskier: Take advantage of [their] extraordinarily strong market position right now to release an inferior map product in hope that doing so will let them build a superior product down the road. The risk, obviously, is that they’ll never actually deliver on this promise. There’s no doubt that in twelve months’ time the iOS Maps app will be better than it is now, but so will Google’s Maps for Android. Given the fact that Google has both a head start and mapping institutional know-how there’s no particular reason to believe that Apple will ever be able to release a superior product. All we know for sure is that right now Apple’s saddled with one that’s worse in some ways from what they already had. But what they achieve by ending the relationship early is a chance to some day—hopefully soon—have the very best maps experience in the world. Under iOS 5 they didn’t have that, and as long as Apple depended on Google they were never going to have it.

Interesting way of thinking, but I have to wonder that if Steve Jobs was still alive, this gamble would never have happened. He would have figured something out, or not released the Maps app at all.

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