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David Sable Headshot

Castles in the Cloud

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Have you been lost more than usual the past week or so?

Have you turned right when you should have gone left, found yourself on the wrong side of the road or in general wondered where the hell you were?

If so, chances are you have the new Apple iPhone 5 and have used its iO6-launched Maps app, originally described as "the most powerful mapping service ever."

Read the letter that follows from Tim Cook -- Apple's CEO -- and you will understand why you found yourself at the local garbage landfill and not at the new restaurant you had waited weeks to get reservations for:

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

And follow this link to see why I said "originally described as 'the most powerful mapping service ever."

Bottom line, you have to give Apple enormous credit for quickly owning up to their massive mistake and even more credit for connecting all the dots -- including the product description -- while at the same time providing what I think is ballsy customer service (ballsy to some -- to me this should be standard: give up the pawn to own the king) by sending you to competitors who actually have great mapping apps.

But here is the thing: Apple gets it, RIGHT? Of course they reacted as they did, or why else would they be the most valuable company on the face of the earth?

To me that is not the question nor is their exemplary reaction the only lesson to take from this debacle -- although many should -- business, politics, personal, be quick and honest!!!!

To me the real question is around the world of beta and the unadulterated hype that we live in.

You see, we have become so used to decimal-notated releases that we blindly accept whatever we are told and put up with inferior products and services that we would never accept in our off-line real world.

Imagine buying clothing and having the sleeves fall off or the zippers not work, or going to a new restaurant and getting food poisoning, or getting on a plane and having the engines not work....

And yes, by the way, all of those things do happen, but our reactions are different and our immediate feedback as a means of input into the next version is usually harsher, with far greater consequences.

The graveyards of poorly executed and produced products, bad tasting foods, out-of-control fashion and harmful services are chock full of the things we as consumers/users/buyers have sent to perdition.

Apple is lucky. At the end of the day this was only an app, and it seems that the majority of product reviews are positive. I have one and its form factor alone is a step up, although the charger... come on guys!!!!! Oh well.

But the notion that anything they do or anything any of the tech community does in the "cloud," is a step up for humanity is nonsense.

So here is a lesson from two centuries ago. It is almost as if Thoreau had prescient vision into our world... listen:

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." - Henry David Thoreau

So Apple -- and all -- even today, even in our beta -accepting world, we still need the foundations and my bet is we always will....

What do you think?