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Can Locationary Cure Apple's Map Woes?

Can Locationary Cure Apple's Map Woes?
By Jennifer LeClaire

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When Apple Maps debuted as part of iOS 6, it fell into the product launch disaster category. It was so embarrassing for the company that it led to an executive shakeup. Only time will tell if the Locationary acquisition will help Apple solve its mapping problems.
 


Apple has struggled to get its mapping software on the right track after an embarrassing debut and plenty of consumer backlash. The iPhone-maker has acquired Locationary for an undisclosed amount as part of the fix.

Locationary provides mobile and web solutions to manage disparate profile information about local businesses. The cloud-based local data management system offers data updates from a global community, business owners and other publishers.

"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling told AllThingsD in confirming the deal.

The question is, will Locationary cure what ails Apple Maps? Over the last few years, Apple has acquired several companies to beef up its maps software, including Poly9, C3 Technologies and Placebase but so far mapping parity with Google has eluded the tech giant.

Tech and Personnel Wins

For an analysis of the latest Apple acquisition, we turned to Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. He told us this acquisition is clearly about doing a better job with location data and related content. But it may be also be about something more.

"The probably also signifies that Locationary wasn't getting the kind of traction in the market it had hoped. The original Locationary idea was for a data warehouse of sorts to house, clean, enhance and then syndicate local business information," Sterling said.

"Apple will likely dispense with most of those functions and use the company's technology and expertise to improve and enhance its own mapping product. My guess is that this acquisition is equally about getting the personnel and the technology."

Buggy and Poor-Performing

When Apple bought Placebase in 2009, rumors started speculating that the company would replace Google Maps on the iPhone. But when Apple Maps debuted as part of iOS 6 about three years later it fell into the product launch disaster category. In fact, it was so embarrassing for the company that it led to an executive shakeup.

The Wall Street Journal reported drama around Scott Forstall, the former iOS chief, in Oct. 2013. The Journal said Apple CEO Tim Cook wanted Forstall to sign an official apology letter to customers for the poor navigation and quality of Apple Maps and he refused.

"The buggy and poor-performing Maps app, which displaced Google Maps as part of the iOS 6 launch, has been a black eye for Apple," Mark Moskowitz, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a research report. Forstall left Apple in the Oct. 2012 shakeup. It was Cook who worked to clean up the mess.

"We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better," Cook wrote in his apology letter to consumers last year. Only time will tell if the Locationary acquisition will help Apple solve its mapping problems.
 

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