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Apple Kicks Maps Exec to the Curb

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Nov 28, 2012 9:40 AM PT

The Apple ax felled another executive Tuesday over the iOS 6 Maps fiasco.

Apple Kicks Maps Exec to the Curb

Richard Williamson, vice president for iOS platform services and manager of Maps, has been terminated by Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, Bloomberg reported. Cue, who is responsible for iOS Maps and Siri, replaced the first casualty in the Maps mess, Scott Forstall.

Forstall was cut from Apple in October along with John Browett, who headed up retail operations. Forstall was reportedly fired because he refused to apologize for the poor performance of the Maps app.

Browett, who was with the company for only nine months, reportedly made his exit because he prioritized cash over customers when running Apple's stores.

Apple did not respond to our request for comment for this story.

Losing Focus

When Apple released its Maps app, a key feature of its new iOS 6 mobile operating system, the software was peppered with errors that were ridiculed in the media. The volume of errors was so bad that the app was labeled "dangerous" by an Irish government official.

Apple's problems with Maps stems from its drifting away of what it has historically done best: meeting customers' needs, according to Trip Chowdhry, managing director for equity research at Global Equities Research.

"Today, Apple is not as user-centric as it was before," he told MacNewsWorld. "Apple needs to go back to its roots, which is delivering what's good for the user. In this case, what's good for the user is Google Maps."

Until the introduction of iOS 6, Apple had used Google Maps for its cartography. It decided to introduce its own maps app as part of a strategy to reduce competitor Google's presence on the iOS home screen.

Doesn't Make Sense

"The executives at Apple made a wrong decision to do their own maps. Firing this guy is making him a scapegoat," Chowdhry maintained. "The fundamental question is, 'does firing this guy have any impact on the user?' No. Firing a talented person is not the solution to this problem, putting a talented person into new projects is part of a solution."

News of Williamson's departure surprised Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a market research firm. "This guy was a really strong leader," he told MacNewsWorld. "He holds a bunch of patents in Apple. Dumping him as a fall guy for Maps just doesn't make sense."

Reaffirming Jobs

Williamson's exit didn't shock Rocco Pendola, director of social media at the TheStreet.com. "After Forstall left, I think somebody had to pay for what happened because it wasn't a great rollout, and it made Apple look bad."

Apple's recent personnel changes were its upper management's way of affirming its commitment to the principles established by Steve Jobs.

The firings are a way of telling the Apple community, "things haven't changed around here. We're not going to put up with cutting corners or something sloppy, and we're going to keep doing things the Apple way," he told MacNewsWorld.

Historically, the Apple way has meant not bringing products to market before they're ready. That doesn't appear to be the case with Maps, according to IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell. "Maps wasn't a side feature of iOS 6; it was one of the core features of the OS."

"It clearly wasn't ready for prime time," he told MacNewsWorld. "It's not like they could have not known that. I don't see how it's possible not to know some of the issues they were going to run into and yet they went ahead. Then they got trashed in the press, justifiably so."

Jobs' Ghost

Many of the glaring errors with Maps have been corrected and fixes are in development for others. Cue reportedly has been seeking advice from map experts to improve the software and pressuring one of the program's providers, TomTom, to improve its data.

Given the soaring sales figures for the iPhone 5 since its introduction with Maps, Apple's bottom line doesn't seem to be suffering from the flub. And that's likely to continue in the short-term, according to Pendola.

"Barring something catastrophic, I don't think anything that happens to Apple is going to hurt it in the near-term," he said. "This is a company firing on all cylinders. They have no worthy competition to speak of."

"Long-term is where the concern is," he added. "The big question that everyone ultimately wants answered is, can they do another iPod, another iPad, another iPhone, without Steve Jobs?"

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