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Don’t kid yourself: Apple’s map fiasco says something’s awry

Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iOS Software at Apple Inc., demonstrates turn-by-turn navigation in iOS6 using Siri during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2012 in San Francisco, California June 11, 2012.

STEPHEN LAM/REUTERS

Apple's recent decision to ditch Google's maps in place of its own, inferior version was just a momentary blip in its ongoing world domination, more a source of punchlines than anything else.

Don't count on that, at all. Instead, be concerned that the map fiasco marks the beginning of the end for the decade's best tech story.

Certainly, Apple has made some missteps in the past, even under lionized CEO Steve Jobs. Richard Beales of Reuters BreakingViews details a few, including early mispricing of the iPhone and problems with the first release of the MobileMe cloud service.

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None of those issues, however, are as fundamental a blow to the Apple/Jobs ethos of elegant customer experiences: Apple products didn't just work, they worked beautifully.

But then, the maps application Apple integrated into the iPhone and iPad barely worked at all, misplacing landmarks and mislabeling streets.

The legend of Mr. Jobs is perhaps overstated. He did, however, have an overwhelming obsession with the user experience. It is hard to imagine this happening on his watch.

"I know next to nothing about tech," tweeted a reporter who specializes in foreign affairs, "but at some point an Apple manager said: 'It doesn't work? We don't care. Foist it on consumers anyway.' "

That has been the reputation of other monolithic tech companies; never so for Apple.

Apple shares have had an incredible run in the year after Mr. Jobs' death (the anniversary of which was last week) as the company benefitted from the products he shepherded. The map fiasco suggests those who have sold recently have made the right call, because the culture he tried to instill may slowly be dying.

Readers: What's your call on Apple stock? Buy, hold or sell? Where will it be trading one year from now? Trade your shots in the comments.

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About the Author
Business and investing reporter and columnist

A business journalist since 1994, David Milstead began writing for The Globe and Mail in 2009. During eight years at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colo., he individually or jointly won nine national awards from SABEW, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. He has also worked at the Wall Street Journal. More

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