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With iOS 9 around the corner, it's time to reroute Maps

Dan Moren | May 22, 2015
A major overhaul is long overdue.

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"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."

Those who have followed the company for any length of time know that sentence is about as close as Apple ever gets to outright confirming that it's acquired another firm. Most recently, the company in question was Coherent Navigation, which was reportedly working on a more accurate and robust version of GPS.

In and of itself, that acquisition isn't particularly surprising, but Apple's purchase of Coherent isn't an isolated event. It's one of 10 known acquisitions by Apple in the mapping and location arena since 2009. If two is coincidence and three's a trend, then 10 is probably in the vicinity of a smoking gun.

Of course, it's long been clear that Apple is interested in location data and mapping, and has been even since before it launched its own Maps app back in 2012. But so far, it's been hard to draw a line from the companies it's bought to actual shipping features.

With iOS 9 around the corner, however, it's possible that the company is preparing to make yet another foray into maps on both mobile devices and the desktop. Even if iOS 9 is focused largely on performance improvements and bug fixes, Maps could still be a tentpole of the release. And I say it's long overdue.

Rumors and hearsay
The launch of Maps in 2012 was one of the most public disappointments to face Tim Cook's Apple. Rife with errors and poor location data, Apple Maps became the butt of more than a few jokes--and that mockery was hardly undeserved. Cook went so far as to publicly apologize for the snafu, and even pointed users in the direction of the company's competitors.

Since then, what development there's been on maps has been fairly minor. With every new year and new release since iOS 6, we've expected big sweeping changes, but somehow those whispered about improvements and updates have never really materialized.

The stakes have gotten higher in the intervening time, as well. Were Apple to come out at WWDC and say that they'd fixed all the existing problems with Maps, they'd certainly get a round of applause--but it would be the polite, lukewarm, "it's about time" kind, not the truly ecstatic, foot-stomping thunderous variety. The window for delivering a Maps that's "good enough" has passed; the company should be looking to not only match but surpass its competitors.

Apple has its work cut out for it. Not only have its competitors not been standing still, but neither have its customers. In the years since Apple Maps debuted, many users have become accustomed to turning to alternative solutions, chief among them Google Maps--the very service that Apple Maps was intended to supplant.


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