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Apple Axes Head of Mapping Team 372

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the openstreetmaps-for-all dept.
New submitter drkim writes "'Apple has reportedly fired the head of its mapping team following software glitches which annoyed customers and rained mockery on the company.' Mr. Williamson promptly left Apple headquarters in Antarctica, and walked to his home in Middelfart, Denmark." Nerval's Lobster adds: "Cue is also 'seeking advice from outside map-technology experts' as well as 'prodding maps provider TomTom to fix landmark and navigation data it shares with Apple.'"
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Apple Axes Head of Mapping Team

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  • Was it justified (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ravaldy (2621787) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:15PM (#42118827)

    Was this guy setup for failure by having to meeting google map standards overnight?

    Firing people sometimes is an escape goat for companies mistakes.

  • Lessons (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:18PM (#42118875)

    The executive failed to deliver the impossible: a complete mapping system built from the ground up in a year or so. The result is that he gets sacked.

    The solution: Apple needs to stop picking fights. I'm sure Google would have given them the full turn-by-turn system if Apple would have paid for it. Apple has great hardware and software engineers. But they aren't good enough to replicate the technology its competitor has spent over a decade developing in just one year.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:28PM (#42119063)

    Personally I still like the new maps app. Even on my old iphone4 it's faster and easier to read and does everything I want. It's even got more features than the previous map app.
    Then again, I live in California and don't suffer from the bad map issues that other regions have had.

    Let's hope apple learns from this lesson. Old Jobs hasn't been in the ground long and already their first "convenience over QC" choice has come back to bite them. Jobs was a QC /fanatic/ and would not have let the shitty maps slip out (Or stay there for long) even if staying with google was a thorn in their side.

    And it was a thorn. Google is a competitor now. Google also wanted better terms if apple wanted to add new mapping features. Apple decided that it was not worth it.. And they were wrong.

    I think if Jobs was still here he'd have slapped people around, re-negotiated with Google, and quickly have a patch issued to revert the maps. We'll see if apple continues to stumble in this very un-apple like manner.

    With any luck google will issue a new maps app and everyone will be happy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:33PM (#42119171)
    Don't worry about it. The idea of an escape goat will make a lot of people smile :-)
  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:39PM (#42119237) Homepage Journal

    The real idiocy here was the fact that there was some idiot executive that insisted that the wheel be reinvented. They let hatered of Google get in the way of day-to-day business here. They could of made sure the google maps were easy to use on their devices and spent the effort coming up with something that Android doesn't do instead.

    They should be firing the person that a "mapping team" was a good idea to begin with.

  • by sribe (304414) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:44PM (#42119315)

    The real idiocy here was the fact that there was some idiot executive that insisted that the wheel be reinvented. They let hatered of Google get in the way of day-to-day business here. They could of made sure the google maps were easy to use on their devices and spent the effort coming up with something that Android doesn't do instead.

    They had no control over the maps app from google, nor on google's terms for use of google's maps API. There was no way to get key features (turn-by-turn directions) without meeting google's demands (for more user data).

  • Re:Here's an idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:44PM (#42119321)
    It's already too late. Oh and by the way, Samsung called with the new price list for next year's parts...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:45PM (#42119335)
    Clearly you've never worked for a large company before.
    It wouldn't surprise me if he said over and over again "There's no way in hell this is ready", but they deployed it anyway.
    They probably also asked him "does it work at all?" to which he responded "sort of", and that was enough for them.
    That's how big companies work, they don't give a damn about your input.
  • Taking the fall... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erp_consultant (2614861) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:49PM (#42119413)

    The problem wasn't so much that the Apple maps were terrible. With a few notable exceptions it actually wasn't bad for a first attempt. Remember, Google Maps wasn't very good at first either. The problem was promoting the Apple Maps as this awesome, fantastic piece of software. Someone in the Apple management chain needed to say "Uh Tim, maybe we should dial back the excitement a bit on this maps thing. Have you seen it? It needs work.". Evidently nobody did so Cook rolled it out thinking it was great and it wasn't.

    Cook looks like an idiot, and by extension so does Apple, so something had to be done about it. He can't allow that to happen. If they lie to him about Maps then how can he trust them to tell him the truth about the next product? If I were him I would have done exactly the same thing. He needs to send a message to management that this sort of thing won't be tolerated. If the product is not ready then fine, we'll figure out something but don't bullshit me and leave me hanging out to dry in front our customers. It might seem harsh but these people are getting paid a ton of money to make the right decisions. If you screw up you're gone.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:51PM (#42119445) Homepage

    Jobs was a QC /fanatic/ ... .

    You definition of either Quality Control or fanatic differs from mine. In particular, Apple has NEVER been about QC. You don't buy Rev 1 of anything Apple unless you are a dyed in wool fanboy. You don't load x.x.0 of any Apple OS unless you are a dyed in wool masochist.

    Yeah, Apple eventually gets it right, mostly. But they've never adhered to the 'fix it before it ships' mentality.

  • by MightyYar (622222) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @01:56PM (#42119537)

    You almost have it right. They certainly do ignore the worker bees who shout "it won't work", but they don't ignore management saying the same thing. Instead, people who never say "it won't work" slowly get promoted over people who do, and you end up with no one in management who will ever say "it won't work".

    I'm quite certain that this Mr. Williamson probably didn't say no to his bosses very often, and I don't particularly feel bad for him.

  • Tim Cook next? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @02:03PM (#42119633)

    Anybody thinking Tim Cook should remain CEO of Apple needs their head read.

    I think that is wasn't the man in charge of Maps that should have gotten the ax, but the guy that decided to drop a working product in favor of a broken product and then stood on a stage and claimed it was better then all the rest.

    I know the decision to drop Google Maps all began with Steve Jobs, however after his passing and Tim Cook taking over certainly there should have been some review of the companies projects to determine if Apple should stay on the same course. At some point I am sure someone must have fired up the Maps app and realized it was no-where near ready for prime-time.

    If Tim Cook is going to blindly follow in Jobs footsteps and not make any executive decision that didn't originate from something Jobs began then I think he should step down or be ousted. Any sane CEO should have yanked the Maps product from the iOS 6 release schedule for lacking to match the quality of the app it was replacing. Yes, maybe it would have looked like egg on his face for postponing a highly publicized new feature, but it would have been far less worse then issuing an apology for releasing the app in the first place.

    And what the f*ck about iTunes 11? There is only 2 days left in November and Apple still proudly boasts it is coming in November. Just like they proudly boasted it was coming in October. I think iTunes 11 is another fiasco in the making.

    You can't just keep firing your top exec's without realizing that that man at top needs to start taking responsibility for the state of the company he is supposedly running. Apple doesn't need a caretaker, it needs a leader, Cook is not a leader.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @02:13PM (#42119755)
    I don't know, it sounds more likely to me that it went
    "Rich, are the maps ready?"

    "What? No, we haven't finished testing."

    "Well, we told Google to fuck off this morning, so it's ready. Don't worry, I'll make sure everyone who matters knows that it went out too soon."

    (That afternoon in boardroom)

    "Yeah, Williamson assured me the maps were ready to go, so we told Google we weren't interested. My stock options just got a little sweeter."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @02:15PM (#42119795)

    It's pretty likely that the practice didn't start with the bible, but was merely documented in the bible based on an existing practice. Unless, of course, you consider the bible to be Word of God, in which case maybe he did use the bible to instruct his followers to sacrifice goats. He was pretty weird back then.

  • by shellbeach (610559) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @02:21PM (#42119873)

    There was no way to get key features (turn-by-turn directions) without meeting google's demands (for more user data).

    No, but they could have met Google's demands in the short-term easily enough until they had an alternative ready for release, rather than rushing out something prematurely. When you're already losing market share hand over fist, why give people another reason to switch to Android?

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @02:26PM (#42119979)

    They let hatered of Google get in the way of day-to-day business here.

    Actually the opposite is true. They let reliance on Google go on for too long, using it as a crutch that hurt day-to-day business for years.

    Android had built-in turn by turn for years; not only could Apple not provide it in iOS, but developers could not write apps that provided turn-by-turn directions on top of the built in iOS mapping framework (it was against Google's TOS). So the whole platform was limited for years by Google restrictions on not just what Apple could do, but what any developer could do.

    Now that Google is out of the picture iOS users have turn by turn directions. They have vector maps. iOS developers can do whatever they want with the built in mapping framework now, without arbitrary Google limitations like limits on reverse geocoding per day, or having to avoid covering up the Google logo on the map, or (as stated) being able to show turn by turn directions on a map.

    Apple should have ditched Google maps much earlier before it got more painful for more users. But the fact is they had to do so, and at least now that it is done Apple can clean up the map data (the hardest part of mapping) and within a year should be essentially caught up for most areas. Already they have better satellite data in many areas than Google does, and they work better in China/Japan for native users (not as well for english users).

  • Not so (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @02:55PM (#42120441)
    That is what we call an ex post facto justification. I don't think that stoning people to death for a bit of nooky comes under "how to live a healthy life".

    Leviticus is a complete mishmash of prohibitions, but at least some of them are believed to be simply banning the practices of non-Jahwist religions, and others are deeply rooted in the concept of women as property which still applies in the more backward parts of the Middle East. It's about as realistic as telling us that the Orpheus myth is a warning about the dire consequences of eating food in basement restaurants.

  • by flimflammer (956759) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:04PM (#42120545)

    You think in a year, Apple is going to be caught up to Google who has been constantly working on their mapping data all this time? You vastly underestimate the effort required in this type of job.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:10PM (#42120663)

    How, again, are those strenuous requirements?

    Because they do NOTHING to help users. You know, the poor bastards that actually have to use the maps? How does it help to hide more map data under a bigger logo? How does it help to push a location based social media system no-one uses through the official maps app? Thats just the kind of thing that belongs in an App, not cluttering your map results.

    I guess if you don't care about users at all the requirements are not strenuous...

  • by wealthychef (584778) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:16PM (#42120783)
    The thing is, the problem they are trying to fix is one they created purely out of a spiteful desire on Mr. Jobs' part to poke a finger in Googles' eye. It backfired and Apple looks foolish. I guess I have to say here that I love Apple but chasing Google Maps off the iPhone has to be one of the all time stupidest things they ever did.
  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:18PM (#42120817) Journal

    Because they do NOTHING to help users. You know, the poor bastards that actually have to use the maps? How does it help to hide more map data under a bigger logo? How does it help to push a location based social media system no-one uses through the official maps app?

    No-one has entitled you to speak for all the users. I am a heavy Latitude user. If I still owned an Apple device, I'd use Latitude with Maps if it was available there.

    Besides, the whole "doesn't help the users" argument as it pertains to iOS Maps debacle is completely inane, since switching to obviously inferior-quality data not only did nothing to help the users, it did a lot to hurt them - hence all the vocal backlash from the userbase that is trivial to find online. And what, exactly, the users get in return? A pretty but ultimately mostly useless ability to see 3D buildings in satellite mode, and?..

  • by Zalbik (308903) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:28PM (#42120967)

    I'm quite certain that this Mr. Williamson probably didn't say no to his bosses very often, and I don't particularly feel bad for him.

    Quite certain? Really? Quite certain?

    And on what, pray tell, do you base this certainty? Did you work for Mr. Williamson? Had you prior dealings with him? Have you worked for Apple and know their management style?

    Or is it just some self-justifying "this is the way I believe the world works, and I'm going to cover my ears and shout 'LA LA LA' ever time it doesn't"

    I'm quite certain the sun will rise tomorrow.
    I somewhat certain that it'll snow later this week
    I think that the LHC probably found the Higgs Boson.
    I have to f'ing clue whether Richard Williamson was a yes man or not.
    And neither do you.

  • by hAckz0r (989977) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @03:53PM (#42121309)
    I have seen this behaviour many times before. When a bad manager is over-stressed to perform they often resort to firing those that didn't/couldn't implement their 'bad management plan'. When that doesn't fix things fast enough they will just fire another token manager to shift the blame yet again. For now I think we can sit back and watch the slow downward spiral in both Apple and Microsoft as they both jettison all the lesser management bots until they (the management) get replaced themselves, by the voice of the shareholders. From there its a very slow crawl back uphill to reclaim lots of lost ground, as the markets have shifted away from them and on to their other competitors.

    With Steve Jobs no longer in the picture its only natural for Apple to have minor shifts in direction and to be making a few bad decisions along the way. Steve was a visionary for the most part, but honestly I'll never understand his sudden switch from a 'product oriented distinction' market to a 'throw Apple under the bus' with the 'Thermonuclear Campaign against Android' market. I used to love Apple products, but now I just can't. I just wish Apple's current management would go back to the old style of creating good quality products, and let the people simply choose the better product. But today what we have is what we have, a company continually making mistakes and placing the blame on those who were not truly in control. Control is at the top, and the top is failing miserably at the moment.

    Apple, please, please, please, prove me wrong. If not its just a matter of time before the shareholders speak up. [Un]fortunately I have already spoken, as my broker knows very well that he will get fired if he invests anything of mine in Apple.

  • by mjwx (966435) on Wednesday November 28, 2012 @08:52PM (#42125139)

    I'm quite certain that this Mr. Williamson probably didn't say no to his bosses very often, and I don't particularly feel bad for him.

    Quite certain? Really? Quite certain?

    And on what, pray tell, do you base this certainty?

    The fact his bosses have openly and publicly acted like complete self adsorbed sociopath and will attack people who tell them they are wrong. The saying "Steve Jobs did not suffer fools" means that Steve Jobs did not like hearing things that he didn't want to hear.

    Look at Job's actions towards Google and Android OEM's, then get back to us. If that's not enough, go back to Antennagate when he told his own customers that they were the problem. If you don't understand the answer to your question by then, you have a problem.

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