Sunday, June 10, 2012

On the dawn of Apple Maps

Apple is launching a Maps app tomorrow, supplanting Google as the standard map on millions of future iPhones and iPads. It occurred to me during dinner that tomorrow may be the biggest day in mapping since the launch of the iPhone, or even of Google Maps itself. Months or years from now, people will be asking me "can we add this to the iPhone map?" or maybe "should our app use Google or Apple?"

As an avid supporter of OpenStreetMap, I acknowledge their network of volunteers and applications, but there's no one day which defines them. It's also possible Apple will use OpenStreetMap data, as they did in iPhoto. If so, we can expect a wave of interest, contributions, and corporate data uploads to transform the site. Hopefully Apple has learned from the mistakes they made back in March:

Footpaths indistinguishable from roads on Apple Maps (Mar 2012)

I'm not worried for Google... in addition to Android, the web, and their API, they must have a plan to keep iPhone users on their system. But let's remember that Google Maps was one of the few apps you could have on the first iPhone in 2007-2008; Maps was one of its greatest selling points. Apple has decided not to let that continue any farther. Not because of iOS vs. Android, but because location is valuable, because (as I said a year ago) "Apple doesn't have a market for real world places". Apple is taking a bet that they understand mobile better than Google, and they can succeed there, like Instagram and Path taking on Facebook on mobile devices. I doubt they'll add their own reviews or check-ins or StreetViews... Instead they may surprise us with better location-aware apps, notifications, and smart caching for faster searches.

It's entirely possible that on day one, Apple Maps will look clunky and incomplete compared to Google. Apple failed to make a dent on social networking with Ping, and Nokia Maps never caught on in the US. But if Apple places itself in the Maps app, plus maps in iOS native apps, millions will be using it daily. And what happens if you aren't on that map?

1 comment:

  1. This post got me thinking. How about a Sugar activity that could talk to a USB-based GPS device. This activity could track/collect data to be mapped locally and possibly be pushed/aggregated for OSM?