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Last updated: February 17. 2013 7:44AM - 45 Views

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YOU CAN'T GET there from here. That's been something users of the "Maps" app in the latest version of Apple's iOS operating system have been learning the hard way.


In a rare blunder, Apple elected to develop its own mapping application for iOS 6 rather than rely on Google's proven and accurate software. Although at first it appears to be adequate, once the app is put into extended use the issues quickly become evident. Lots of things aren't where they should be. Some towns have been lost to the sea or are missing altogether.


In many ways the 3D display in "Satellite View" is a lost cause – according to Apple's map of Wilkes-Barre, the northbound Cross Valley Expressway jiggles up and down, taking on a jagged appearance. The southbound lanes simply plummet into the river, emerging on the other side.


In a rare move, Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized to Apple users and the company has gone out of its way to suggest alternate mapping applications for iOS 6 users.


Despite these issues characterized by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak as "not that severe," the embarrassment fuels skepticism or perhaps the fear that Apple will be unable to continue its tradition of innovation without Steve Jobs running the show. Apple hasn't made many mistakes lately, and this does qualify as a big one.


How the company managed to underestimate the difficulty of creating a high-quality digital map program is something of a mystery.


As Apple now knows, compiling accurate data for maps is extremely difficult and expensive. Google has been in the mapping business for nearly a decade and has its own infrastructure for routing and listings, which includes physically driving on roads all over the world. Apple was relying on a series of third-party providers and had to stitch together various types of data that were not designed to coexist in a single platform.


Can Apple resolve it? Eventually. Should it try? There's an old saying about reinventing the wheel that seems to advise against it.


Google Maps isn't perfect, but I'd say it's within the 99th percentile in terms of accuracy. Apple isn't anywhere near close.


Perhaps Google will sweep in to reintroduce iOS users to the science of cartography once again … if Apple lets it.


Nick DeLorenzo is director of interactive and new media for The Times Leader. E-mail him at ndelorenzo@timesleader.com.


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