Apple Makes a Wrong Turn

Apple (NAS: AAPL) wants me to go to iOS 6, but I say, "No, no, no."

Why, why, why?

Because Google's (NAS: GOOG) map app works very well on my iPhone 4S and iPad 2, thank you very much, and from what I've read, Apple's replacement app in iOS 6 is so buggy it should come with an exterminator.

Complaints range from omission of public transportation information, lack of detail, inconsistent city information, and poor traffic overlays. And Apple Map problems are reported to be even worse overseas.

However, this map app hoopla hasn't stemmed the tide of iPhone 5 sales -- Apple said it sold 5 million iPhone 5s in the first weekend alone. But it does raise a major question: Why would Apple, so well-known for its almost insane attention to detail under Steve Jobs, release such a flawed product?

One possible, but not likely, reason is that Jobs' replacement as CEO, Tim Cook, just doesn't sweat the small stuff like Jobs did. The map debacle is certainly a major departure from Apple's usually flawless execution.

More likely -- and more disturbing, as far as I'm concerned -- is that this was a strategic gamble on the part of Apple, to knowingly foist a poor product onto its loyal customer base just to push Google off Apple's mobile devices ASAP.

So what about the problems that Apple Maps may cause its users? Apple's comment:

We launched this new map service knowing that it is a major initiative and we are just getting started with it. ... We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.

Deja vu all over again
This Apple Maps detour brings to mind an Apple event of a little over a year ago. The company had spent the last 10 years making its video editing program, Final Cut Pro, the most popular professional video editing software in the industry. Then, suddenly last summer, Apple announced it was ending development of Final Cut Pro and replacing it with Final Cut Pro X.

The good news for consumers: FCPX cost much less than FCP. The bad news for editors: many important features vital to professional video editing were left out.

Apple promised that many of those features would be brought back in future FCPX upgrades. Editors, however, had projects to complete and couldn't wait on Apple's upgrade program. Many switched to other editing platforms, like Avid's (NAS: AVID) Media Composer and Adobe's (NAS: ADBE) Premier Pro, to get the editing features FCPX lacked.

Granted, the professional video editing community is minuscule compared to the magnitudes of Apple's total customer base. But the way in which Apple threw the editors under the bus may have been the beginning of a manifestation of corporate hubris: Apple can do whatever it wants because it has become so rich and dominant.

But investors should remember that the way Apple has become so strong was by focusing on the user experience. Sacrificing that user experience as a strategic counter to Google's importance in the mapping world could push potential customers into the Google Android mobile ecosystem if for no other reason, than to have a mapping service that actually works.

In the meantime, the iPhone 5's tremendous sales numbers merely underscore the effect Apple has on the whole tech world. To get the full scoop on one of the pre-eminent names in technology today, grab your copy of the Fool's new premium report on Apple. It comes with a full year of updates, as well as an overview of the must-know opportunities and threats for every Apple investor. Click here to get started now.

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