The brouhaha over Apple’s Maps isn’t the first time the company’s been slammed over a first-generation product. At launch the iPhone 4 included a quirky antenna that resulted in a class action suit and an ultimate deal to provide purchasers with a $15 credit or free bumper case. Google was flummoxed by the very notion of customer service when it released the Nexus One, and ended direct sales after a scant five months. Apple also had MobileMe, Google had Google Buzz, etc., etc.
Of course, such things happen. There’s a feeling in tech that it’s often OK to launch an imperfect product and fix it later. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
It seems like Apple and Google are going through this particular swamp more often than they have to. Ironically, it’s about feeling more pressure for speed than direction. They’re launching products before they’re ready to show off that they’re on the cutting edge before they actually ARE on the cutting edge. There’s nothing that terrible about giving folks an imperfect but usable product when it can drive sales, fits with your mission and, most important, keeps customers happy. I suspect Apple kicked off Maps well before it was ready for no reason besides flipping the bird at its increasingly apparent foe, Google. That hasn’t worked out so well, especially when Cupertino could have avoided the whole thing by just suffering through the year it had left in its licensing agreement with Google.
Given the initial thrill of Siri versus the tepid reaction to early Google Voice, you can’t blame Apple. More often than not, it gets things right enough to keep itself center stage as the most game-changing of companies. But both companies are skirting dangerously close to the quicksand of letting their internal emotions get the better of their logical actions. If you spend too much money creating products that don’t work and piss off your customers, you’ll find yourself so deep in the woods you won’t be able to get out.
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