Apple's Maps app in iOS 6 has people hot and bother, and not in a good way. Plus, there may be an iPad media event in October, and Mac OS Ken's Ken Ray calls out the stupid in one analyst -- and he's using the term "analyst" loosely.
Can You Find Me Now?
By now you've likely heard Apple CEO Tim Cook has apologized to anyone who uses iOS 6 for the Mapocalypse. The Cupertino-company issued the open letter/apology/press release thing last Friday.
We strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.
Making it better is what it was all about according to Cook, so they felt they had to start over from scratch. And while it may not be what everyone wants it to be, it is getting used and it is - in theory - getting better. Quoting the letter again: "There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you."
In the meantime, have you visited the App Store? Cook suggests that, while the Maps app improves, there are alternatives, like iOS apps from Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or web apps plopped on the home screen like Google Maps or Nokia maps. But the offering of alternatives did not stop there. IN addition to the few possibilities listed by Cook, Apple set up a small section in the App Store with several alternatives.
Cult of Mac points readers to a button on the front page of the App Store, with the words "Find maps for your iPhone" on it. Click it and one is presented with 13 choices, ranging from the free Bing app mentioned in the letter to the so far from free Magellan RoadMate USA app, which sell for $49.99.
Wrapping up the letter: Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.
While everything that happens at Apple, these days, happens on Tim Cook's watch, there are those wondering who is to blame for the Maps mishap. And the answer, they think, is Scott Forstall, head of iOS for Apple.
If you're interested in their take on the issue, you might want to check out the Fortune piece, "Does Apple have a Scott Forstall problem?"
I will say, if it does, it's got a bigger problem than the piece points out: what's Apple's alternative? Forstall heads iOS, which runs the iPhone, which The New York Times says accounted for 46 percent of Apple's revenue in the June quarter and roughly 60 percent of its profits. iOS also runs the iPad, which the Times says accounted for 26 percent of Apple's revenue in the June quarter.
I'm not saying Scott Forstall is irreplaceable, but there's no way Apple wants to replace him anytime soon. It'd disrupt the cash cow and the cash calf plus they'd run the risk of him turning up somewhere else.
I hear HP is interested in smartphones again.
Every bad thing anyone has ever said about Forstall may be true. And maybe he was responsible for the Maps thing. It's a black eye. Black eyes heal. And if Forstall is a problem, I feel fairly certain he's a problem Apple would rather have inside its gates, not outside.
One of the statements made by many throughout the iOS 6 Mapocalypse: Steve Jobs would never have shipped the Maps App.
Thing is he might've, though, since it was apparently his idea. A Bloomberg/Businessweek piece says not only did Jobs find Google's copying of iOS for Android repugnant (my word not theirs) he also "came to loathe" Google (their words not mine) for "withholding" turn-by-turn voice-guided navigation from the Google Maps app built into iOS.
In fact, Jobs hated Google so much, according to the piece, he toyed with the idea of stripping Google Search out of the phone as a built-in option, though he eventually nixed the idea for fear of losing customers.
But the maps thing he was into. And so, an unnamed Bloomberg source says Jobs got the Map thing rolling, gave the project to Scott Forstall, and passed away before it was completed. Still, buys for the project started as far back as 2009, if memory serves. So the whole thing started under his watchful eye.
How much does the average consumer care about the iOS 6 Maps thing? Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu say he or she does not. At least not enough to not buy an iPhone 5.
The Mac Observer has Dr. Wu saying demand is still sky high for the phone, with Apple's current inability to crank out more of them being the only thing stopping the company from selling more of them.
Quoting his note:
Despite well-publicized concerns with its new Maps app, we have not picked up changes in supply chain build plans ... Demand appears robust with (Apple's) online store quoting a lead time of 3-4 weeks. In addition, we are seeing improving yields on in-cell touchscreens meaning it is becoming less of a constraint.
Yields may stay low for a bit, though, because the thing is so hard to build. IHS iSuppli said last week that the iPhone 5 is "geometrically more complex" than previous iPhones, something the Wuiner seems to be hearing from across the sea as well.
Quoting his note again: "From our latest supply chain checks, the gating factor has now apparently become the assembly of the iPhone 5 itself. From our understanding, the product is not easy to build being a minimalist design using only aluminum and glass in its casing."
As for the Maps thing, he's not worried about that long term, saying in his note, "People forget that Google Maps started out inferior to Yahoo Maps and Mapquest."
Going Small: The Next iPad
The media's fever for iPhone 5 may be starting to break, but the iPad mini rash appears to be flaring up again.
There's an image for you, huh?
Rumor has it Apple will send out invitations to the starting to be more anticipated iPad mini event next Wednesday, October 10th.
Fortune gets the rumor from someone they won't name -- "a major Apple investor who says he's heard it from 'multiple sources'" -- and they don't seem sold on the idea, saying, "this is a rumor we have no reason to believe ... except it comes from a major Apple investor who says he's heard it from 'multiple sources.'"
What this piece says more than anything, it seems, is the press has started to get bored with your phone that changes everything again and again and again, please, give us a tablet that changes everything again and again.
Assuming invitations do go out on the 10th, Fortune figures an October 17th event, with sales of the still fictitious device starting November 2nd.
Thing is, we've got a quarterly earnings call coming up on October 25. Doesn't Apple usually do events like these after a quarterly earnings call?
The Unofficial Apple Weblog says the call will be "the first real indication of how the iPhone 5 is doing in the market," though we'll only be looking at a week and two days of sales in 30 countries on that call.
That announcement throws all of my speculation out of whack. Only one time in the past two years has the earnings call been on a day besides a Tuesday. And that was a Wednesday, not a Thursday.
I'm going to spend Friday, October 26th thinking its Wednesday.
Now I don't want you to think I've got nothing better to do than obsess over why Apple would chose one date over another for its earnings call. But the fact of the matter is, I don't.
It's that and old video cassettes of Captain Kangaroo.
Something about October 25th stuck in my head, and so I poked around online. Know what else happens on the 25th? That's the day that Boy Genius Report says Microsoft is holding a press event to launch Windows 8.
My guess is Apple's going to announce stellar numbers. And they plan to torpedo Friday press coverage of Microsoft's über expensive launch event with -- literally -- one phone call.
And stellar numbers.
And with that, we start the wondering: How will sales of the still fictitious device go?
Macworld UK has Barclays Capital analyst Kirk Yang saying the iPad mini may see a similar issue to the iPhone 5: not enough to meet demand. Yang says Apple has tapped both Hon Hai Precision Industry (you can call 'em Foxconn) and Pegatron to produce the iPad mini, though Pegatron's not as good at it as Foxconn.
Apple's looking for Foxconn to crank out between 6-million and 7-million units heading into the holidays, with Pegatron expected to pop out 3-million. But that might be a stretch, with Yang saying, "Unlike Hon Hai Precision Industry, Pegatron lacks the experience for tablet assembly, which has a long learning curve."
But he still thinks they're a go for this month, saying in his note, "As most iPad component vendors ramp up shipments in September that would continue into the fourth quarter of 2012, we do not see any signs of a postponed shipment schedule, suggesting an on-time October product launch."
Sounds good. Now. Who can we find to say something stupid about it?
Speaking to Sci-tech, Rob Enderle says, "Any way you look at it, Apple is either months or almost a year late to the market with this."
Really? Any way? Like the way the way the iPad currently controls 52 percent of the tablet market in the states and 61 percent worldwide without a 7-inch machine? 'Cause when you look at it that way it looks like they still have time to retain market dominance.
"I don't see Apple's angle here," says Enderle, "which I think is a problem." Is the problem that they don't have an angle or that you can't see it? "They have to maintain margins so they can't beat them on price," he says, followed by, "The screen on both the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire are very good, so they can't really beat them on screens."
Because I'm Rob Enderle and I said so.
He goes on saying stupid things, pointing out that 7-inch tablets are for content consumption while 10-inch tablets are for both content consumption and productivity, so Apple may not know what they're doing. The Amazon Kindle Fire and the Google Nexus 7 already have mindshare in the 7-inch space, so Apple might not be able to break in. And, if Apple does break into the 7-inch space, they might end up cannibalizing sales of the 10-inch iPad, and there's that screwed up.
And I only asked for one stupid thing.
Apple: Almost On Top
And finally this week, every year I wonder how one goes about giving a brand a valuation. I blame the brand consulting firm Interbrand for this, since -- every year -- it publishes the list of the world's top 100 brands by value.
How do they do it? I don't know. I think it's something they make up. Whatever the case, Apple has been moving up the list pretty consistently for the last few years, and this year it's almost on top.
AppleInsider has the firm valuing the Apple brand at $76,568,000,000. And believe it or not, that is only good enough for second place. Coca-Cola beats out the all-things-iMaker, taking the top spot with a brand value of $77,839,000,000.
By Interbrand's reckoning, the value of Apple's brand increased 129 percent from 2011, which was the most growth shown by any of the 100 on the list for the year.
Other brands of interest in the top 20 include IBM at three, Google at four, Microsoft at five, Intel at eight, Samsung at nine, Disney at 13, Cisco 14, HP 15, Oracle at 18, Nokia at 19, and Amazon at 20.
The top 20's pretty tech heavy.