Apple CEO Tim Cook has posted an open letter to customers on Apple.com concerning iOS 6 Maps. iOS 6 Maps, which replaced the original, Google-powered iOS Maps app with one that drew data from TomTom and others, but which was more wholly owned, controlled, and realized by Apple, has been the subject of controversy since launch due to the quality of data in many areas.

In the open letter, Cook apologizes for the current state of iOS 6 maps, and even goes so far as to recommend competing products from the App Store and the web. He also assures iOS 6 users that Apple will be working "non-stop" to make iOS 6 Maps live up to Apple's standards. (If you want to help Apple improve it, you can submit corrections using the built-in tools.)

Apple began buying map-releated companies in 2009. Earlier this year, iMore learned Apple planned to remove as much of Google from the core of iOS as possible, including at the location data level. It later became known that Apple and Google had been feuding for some time over features, branding, and data usage in the original maps app.

Interestingly, in a poll of iMore readers conducted last night, more than 50 percent reported a positive outlook on maps. Back before iOS 6 Maps was even announced, iMore reported on the realities of Apple's the upcoming Maps product, trying to set realistic expectations. That report now seems to have been largely accurate.

Due to the nature and importance of the problems with iOS 6 Maps, mainstream news organizations have been reporting on it throughout the last week. When that happens, Apple typically knows they have to issue a statement and take back control of the story. Previous open letters have included the iPhone 4 "antennagate", the lack of Flash plugin support in iOS, the health of Apple's late CEO, Steve Jobs, and the use of DRM (digital rights management) on iTunes music. In other words, It's a BIG DEAL and a very public sign that Apple is taking a situation very seriously.

Google is expected to release a version of their popular Maps product into the iOS App Store eventually, although they're playing it coy at this point. The deeper problem Apple still has to address is -- how could Apple let this happen? How could Apple release a product that could reasonably be seen to have this consequence, without internally identifying and pre-emptively addressing it at either of their two announcement events, WWDC or the iPhone 5 event, and how could they let the story run away from them for a over a week before responding? This isn't a case of measuring a response to an unforeseeable situation twice and cutting it loose to the press and public once. This is a case of risk assessment and mitigation gone wrong, and of brand currency expended.

Apple doesn't only have to fix maps, they have to fix the process that resulted in Tim Cook having to write this letter.

Source: Apple.com

To our customers,

At Apple, 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.

We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.

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.

While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.

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.

Tim Cook Apple’s CEO