Bloomberg n(Bloomberg) — Apple Inc. has fired the manager responsible for its troubled mapping software, seeking to win back the trust of users disappointed after the program debuted in September, according to people familiar with the move.
Richard Williamson, who oversaw the mapping team, was
pushed out by Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, said the people, who asked not to be named because the information wasn’t yet public. Cue, who took over last month as part of a management shakeup, is seeking advice from outside mapping-technology
experts and prodding digital maps provider TomTom NV to fix
landmark and navigation data it shares with Apple.
Critics have faulted Apple’s new map software for
unreliable landmark searches, routes that get users lost and lack of public transit directions. Cue is seeking to build
confidence in the program amid a growing battle with Google
Inc., whose mapping application had been built into Apple’s
iPhone since its introduction in 2007. Google is now preparing to unveil rival downloadable apps for Apple’s mobile devices.
While Apple’s map program doesn’t appear to have hurt sales
of the iPhone 5, it was a rare public misstep that forced Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook to apologize to customers.
Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Apple, declined to comment
on Cue’s moves. She referred to the statement Cook issued in September that said the mapping software will improve as more customers use it and more data can be gathered.
“We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has
caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make maps better,” Cook said in the statement.
In removing Williamson, Cue wants to install a new
leadership team for the group, one person said. A replacement for Williamson wasn’t immediately known. Attempts to reach
Williamson weren’t successful.
Apple shares slipped less than 1 percent to $586.81 at 2:01
p.m. in New York. The stock has gained 45 percent so far this year.
A team at Apple has been working to fix the mapping
mistakes, focusing first on some of the most glaring problems, one person said. The satellite imagery over the U.K. has been improved and labels for popular U.S. landmarks such as the
Washington Monument have been corrected.
The new version of Apple’s iOS mobile software removed
Google’s built-in maps app in favor of its own, which added new features such as turn-by-turn navigation and fly-over views of landscapes. IOS software runs iPhones and iPads, which compete with smartphones and tablets that run Google’s Android operating system.
Apple, which also eliminated the preinstalled app for
Google’s YouTube video service, built the replacement map
program because it wanted to scale back its relationship with Google, two people familiar with Apple’s development of maps said in September.
The company’s bungled introduction of new mapping features
contributed to the ouster of mobile-software chief Scott
Forstall, whose departure was announced in October. As part of the management overhaul, Cue — who oversees Apple’s iTunes, App Store and iCloud services — was also put in charge of maps and the Siri voice-recognition tool, bringing all of the company’s online services under one group.
This isn’t the first time Cue has taken on a troubled
product. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had him oversee the
MobileMe Internet-storage service after a series of miscues, including a glitch that prevented customers from accessing their e-mail. That service was recently closed and replaced with
Cue, who started his career at Apple in the company’s
internal information-technology department, became a close
confidant of Jobs. As head of iTunes, he spearheaded many of the negotiations with music, television and movie companies. He’s also leading the company’s effort to add more video content for a potential new television product, people familiar with the internal deliberations said earlier this year.
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