• The future of Apple Maps

    Itís fair to say that Apple Maps was one of the biggest disasters for Apple in 2012. As I predicted, it hasnít turned out to be the tragedy that many pundits were predicting.

    Letís recap. Apple released its own mapping app with iOS 6. While the Maps app was beautiful to use, the underlying data service that it accessed was far from accurate. On a number of occasions I used it and was taken in completely the wrong direction!

    Not long after iOS 6 appeared, Google unveiled a new version of Maps for iOS that released the pressure off Apple.

    However, Apple has continued to improve Mapsí underlying data and also the user interface. It has also been acquiring businesses that it thinks will improve the Maps experience over time.

    The most recent acquisitions are HopStop and Locationary.

    HopStop provides door-to-door transit, with walking, cycling and taxi directions in over 300 cities worldwide. The app and website lets users get directions, find nearby train stations and bus stops and provides Real-Time Alerts and Planned Service Changes. HopStop plus Apple Maps opens some interesting possibilities.

    Locationary, via a platform called Saturn, provides accurate business listing information to other map providers. The data youíd find in Saturn is exactly the sort of data you would expect to find in Apple Maps. Information such as business locations, business opening times and links to find further information are potentially the sort of details that will put Apple Maps on an equal (and potentially better) footing than Google Maps for iOS.

    Obviously, we have yet to see how Apple will integrate both services, but it is evidence that Apple is investing heavily in its mapping solutions.

    Another big complaint about Apple Maps is that it isnít available anywhere except on iOS devices.

    That will change in Mavericks, the next major release of Mac OS X, with the built-in Maps client.

    The Maps app in Mavericks is a full-featured mapping client that provides an easy-to-use interface with the convenience of an app.

    Maps for Mavericks also has tight integration with the iOS app. Once youíve looked up an address, or found directions to where you need to go, you can use the handy ĎSendí feature to shoot the details across to your iOS device. Itís further evidence that Apple sees mapping as a key pillar of the platform.

    The third clue that Apple is serious about Maps is that iOS 7 will introduce a new feature called ĎiOS in the Carí.

    According to Apple, ďiOS in the Car can connect your iPhone and interact with it using the carís built-in display and controls or Siri Eyes Free.Ē When considering iOS in the Car, it is easy to come to the conclusion that an accurate mapping solution is essential for the success of the Apple platform.

    Iíve been longing for car manufacturers to get out of the business of designing in-car entertainment and navigation systems. These systems are generally old when they make it into production, never get updated and have clunky interfaces.

    It makes much more sense to let Apple (or Google) handle the user interface and technology and leave the car manufacturers to ensure they supply all the latest technology thatís needed to make it work Ė things like large touch screen displays, Bluetooth connectivity and Siri.
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