Facebook Hires Fired Apple Maps Manager for Mobile-Software Group

| Analysis

Facebook has hired Richard Williamson for its mobile-software group, according to Bloomberg. Mr. Williamson was part of the team that built the original iPhone, but is better known for being the manager in charge of developing the original Apple Maps service. He was fired from Apple after the launch of the service was panned.

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Apple launched Apple Maps to replace Google Maps from iPhone and iPad in September of 2011. The move was long-expected and rumored, but it was met with withering criticism for problems with directions and mistakes in map data.

Apple has moved swiftly to improve the service, but vice president Scott Forstall and Richard Williamson both were sacked because of the problems. Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue fired Mr. Williamson n November as part of his efforts to rebuild the Maps team.

Bloomberg also noted that Facebook has been busy hiring other former Apple folks. Greg Novick was an iPhone manager who worked on the touch interface. Mike Matas and Kimon Tsinteris were iPhone software designers who left Apple has formed Push Pop Press. Facebook purchased that company and the two have stayed at the social networking giant.

Facebook has also hired Scott Goodson, Tim Omernick, and Chris Tremblay, all former Apple software engineers.

Loren Brichter is a former Apple employee who left to found Atebits, where he released the very popular Tweetie app. Twitter bought Tweety, and Mr. Brichter went to work at Twitter to develop the Twitter app for iPhone. He eventually left Twitter, however, and is now consulting for Facebook.

It's not particularly stunning that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has acquired a number of former Apple managers, designers, and engineers. Facebook is a large company, Apple is a large company, and there are a lot of people who used to work at both of them. Throw Google into the mix and you could repopulate the Rust Belt with former employees. In Silicon Valley, there is all sorts of moving about between all of these companies.

In addition, people who have grown wealthy on stock options sometimes leave the giants like Apple and Google to strike out on their own with startups. Those startups are then acquired by the large companies making for one large incestuous, yet virtuous circle.

We should also note that though Mr. Williamson was canned for the Apple Maps rollout, the problems associated with that rollout were caused in part by the way former VP Scott Forstall introduced the service. It was launched when it wasn't ready and it was very much over promised as a gorgeous system ready to replace the established and well-honed Google Maps.

Apple Maps was and is gorgeous, but it wasn't ready to be the default Maps system on Apple's iOS. Had Mr. Forstall introduced it as a beta service alongside the original Google-powered Maps app, for instance, Apple wouldn't have taken the same PR hit it did take.

Our point is that Mr. Williamson's reputation might have been besmirched in the tech world's echo chamber, but his career was longer and much more accomplished than just Apple Maps. Simply being part of the original iPhone team is enough to make anyone a legend in the industry, and with time that team is likely to be as storied as the original Macintosh team.

Facebook's hiring of him is the proof in that particular pudding.

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FWIW, let me just toss in a word regarding Apple and Google maps. This is less in reference to your basic story about sacked ex-Apple folk being newly hired at FB, and more about the feeding frenzy around Apple maps awhile back.

Google Maps, as you and others pointed out in several posts at the time, has benefitted from input from people over the years to become a refined product. Apple Maps was prematurely launched. Those facts are not in dispute by anyone following the issue. Nonetheless, Google Maps remains, years out, a work in progress and will remain so for years to come.

Case in point. Last July (2012), I brought my wife out to one of my conferences in Europe. We left the French Alps and then went to Switzerland. She loves jazz, but had never been to the Montreux Jazz Festival. Aha! I thought, here’s my chance to be the first guy to take her Montreux and give her a belated anniversary gift at the same time. Go me. We took the train from Geneva to Montreux, and along the way and there at the jazz festival, I took photos. As things would have it, these were geotagged by Google Maps.

I have a series of photos of performers on the same stage, but Google shows the location as being about a kilometre offshore from Lausanne in Lake Geneva for about half the pics and then, inexplicably, in Montreux for the other half - on the same stage but at a later time point. (My interpretation is the timing; the satellites and Google’s servers are not synchronised).

Now, I could sensationalise this on Twitter and claim that we nearly drowned in Lake Geneva trying to follow Google Maps at the Jazz Festival (which, in my view, would paint me as one bloody stupid bloke), or provide feedback to Google so that they can tweak their service and make it better still. One of these actions is puerile and the other practical. This is not to detract from people who were genuinely inconvenienced by Apple Maps, but there were some obvious exaggerations at the height of the frenzy.

BTW: I have successfully used Apple maps all across France, Switzerland, Netherlands, the UK and sundry locations in Europe (and other continents) and have yet to have logged a serious glitch. Without doubt, inaccuracies are there, but nowhere near as pervasive as internet posts might portray.

I know, not relevant to the story; just a follow up.

Bryan Chaffin

Great points, as always, wab95.

Also, go you on giving your wife that experience. How was the show that year?


The show? I was too busy looking at the woman.

I’m more of a classical music/opera man, myself; to which my wife also listens, but she really likes and knows her jazz, and has educated me on the genre. At the festival, they had rock, pop, fusion, ‘world’ and lots of different genres of music on offer, including in the music shop where you could make purchases.

The only genre that I didn’t hear, even in the music shop, was jazz at the, um, jazz festival. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the day - wouldn’t trade it for anything - except, perhaps, some jazz to go along with it.

It’s hard to go wrong with any spot along Lake Geneva.


Oh, I should add, last year was the year of ‘the naked guy’ logo. Not sure what that was all about.

My wife ended up buying an older t-shirt and memorabilia from previous years. Didn’t want to flash the naked guy on her t-shirt. Imagine that.

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