On iOS 8 Maps, Music, and managing culture

On iOS 8 Maps, Music, and managing culture

While the sheer quantity and quality of announcements made at WWDC 2014 was enough to stun a bevy of bloggers, there were some anticipated announcements that didn't materialize, things like updates to Maps and Music. So what's happening with these key apps in iOS 8? Unless and until we hear from Apple, all we have is rumor. And for the maps part of that, we have Techcrunch:

Why didn't [key changes to Maps appear at WWDC 2014]? One tipster says it was a personnel issue: "Many developers left the company, no map improvements planned for iOS 8 release were finished in time. Mostly it was failure of project managers and engineering project managers, tasks were very badly planned, developers had to switch multiple times from project to project."

It's a take that is both contested and corroborated by our other source. "I would say that planning, project management and internal politics issues were a much more significant contributor to the failure to complete projects than developers leaving the group," the source said.

9to5Mac adds some specifics:

While the TechCrunch report doesn't mention any names, we do know that the mapping team has lost a few key people recently. Back in March, reports popped up that Cathy Edwards, who happen to be in charge of Maps Quality after joining Apple through the company's acquisition of Chomp. The reason behind Cathy's departure was unknown at the time, but we've learned from sources that disagreements with employees on the Maps team working under Edwards and an opposition to her management style lead to problems on the Maps team and ultimately her leaving in April. Apple also lost key Maps team member Jared Waldman from Placebase who worked as Head of Geo at Apple Maps until late last year. In addition, we've heard from former employees of the mapping team that recently left the company due to issues with Edwards and management of the Maps team.

This follows similar reports about the state of Apple's music services from Buzzfeed:

Like Ping, the development of iTunes Radio suffered from a shortsighted strategy, sources said. "Pandora is an awesome radio that blows iTunes Radio out of the water. Seriously, iTunes Radio sucks and it sucks because of Apple's arrogance," one former, mid-level employee said. "I was floored by the decision-making skills by management over and over again."

Apple employees confirmed that management actively ignored iTunes' streaming competitors, with some managers refusing to open or use Spotify. One source said that as recently "as last year," some members of management didn't even know that Spotify was an on-demand streaming service, assuming it was just a radio service.

Any time something happens at Apple there will be people who say it was because of arrogance or infighting, just like there will be people who say it's simply the normal course of normal business. That's really what it comes down to — people.

Apple is no different than any other company. It's composed of people, and it has a specific culture. Not all people get along together, and not all people fit into all cultures. If that's hard to believe, just imagine your own company and the internal dynamics you deal with on a daily basis. Then scale that up to Apple and iOS feature delivery scale. The pressure, it isn't trivial.

We've had former Apple program managers on the Debug podcast. They're amazing people, capable of shipping on the scale WWDC keynotes and device events promise. Yet for every dozen or hundred successful fits there's bound to be a Browett or a Papermaster. There's bound to be people that just don't fit into the roles or teams they're put in. That's people and that's business — whether you're Apple or not.

That's not excuse making. That's reality. Any company that can drop Extensibility, Continuity, Swift, and the hundreds of other features shown off at WWDC 2014 doesn't need any excuses made on their behalf.

We'll get Maps Transit in iOS 8 or iOS 9. In the meantime, we have a lot of great transit apps in the App Store. We'll get subscription music at some point as well, even if it does come from Beats.

In the meantime, there's tons of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite coverage coming your way!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

On iOS 8 Maps, Music, and managing culture

7 Comments

I hope Apple puts some serious work into Beats--as a streaming service it is lacking essential features that hinder usability and discoverability when compared to Spotify or Google Play Music. For instance, Beats currently lacks a queue system, and it doesn't allow you to view favorited tracks. So let's hope whoever is in charge of decisions at Beats Music doesn't also have their heads in the sand. The goal should be to develop Beats into a world-class subscription music service for Apple, that will require reconsidering how people actually interact with the service.

The problem with transit data remains that there is a) no global standard for transit schedule data, mostly not even national standards and b) that some public transit providers will not allow you to publish their data, not even for a fee.

And it is not only Apple struggling here. Google's transit data (and virtually everybody's) throughout Europe is pure garbage, because it mostly only covers the national railroad companies, but not the local and regional providers. As a result, when I enter my daily way to work into Google, it offers me train connections taking an hour longer than needed and costing 300% of what I pay. Saying Apple is behind because they do not offer the same nonsense... well.

Sort of. To keep flogging the dead horse, if Apple wants to improve Maps, they need to allow users to open up Google Maps (or any other alternative) as a default. Short of that, they are going to find reasons to prioritize elsewhere and let substandard apps coast.

More disturbing are the Spotify revelations. Apple management not knowing what a competitor does is bad enough, but if managers actually *refused to open* a competitor, they should be sacked immediately. That sort of not just hubris, but willful head-in-the-sand ignorance has been the death of many companies.

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It sounds familiar in some ways to the infighting and arrogance that have happened in the past at Apple, such as in the 1980s. Corporate America seems to be a lot like that in general...

Should have just stuck with google for maps. Way too many issues and seems like lack of care on apples part about maps.

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I don't doubt any internal issues with Maps and iTunes teams. One look at the needed but unfortunate mess that is iTunes is proof enough. I don't really care about Maps, I think Apple hit homeruns in the biggest areas they needed to with the exception of iTunes. Hopefully more will get addressed before iOS 8 actually drops.