Category: Apple

Bad maps.. really a search problem

So now everyone knows making a map of our little planet to make available to users of mobile devices everywhere that is both accurate, up-to-date and detailed is hard. And with the benefit of hindsight and industry expertise we can smile knowledgeably at the mainstream tech press falling over themselves debating and theorising over Apple Mapgate !

But are we all missing the point, I have seen very few comments in the specialist or mainstream tech press that really address the true issue here.. Making maps work well on a phone is not actually a cartography problem.. yes you can use poor maps or conflate content from various sources without care producing a poor map, and people might get lost… but the reason we all use maps on our phones is that they help us find stuff – maps on smartphones are interfaces to local search.

Local search has all the issues of web search plus the added complication of needing to explicitly locate relevant information in relation to the location of the user.. To be successful you need a geocoded search index of places, an algorithm to identify terms that relate to places and of course some maps to put it all in context.

To be fair to our friends in Cupertino the maps are not that bad, all maps have some mistakes, but the bigger issue is the lack of a true geocoded search index of places and the search algorithms that sit around it.

Local search is in many ways what makes smart phones smart, because the users location and the location of things around them provides a set of contextual pointers to relevant information. If you are a lucky owner of a Jelly Bean powered android smartphone have a used Google Now, just think about how many of the information cards are related to location.. weather, travel information etc.

To make good maps that are globally consistent, accurate and up-to-date is hard and takes lots of people as well as clever software, as it is a business of relationships with many different providers of local data, and potentially local community groups. Transit directions are a case in point, they are not difficult to do technically, but the number of organisations that you must partner with to obtain data runs into the thousands   – it really does take years..

To understand local search is much harder you need the maps from above, plus the ability to crawl, create, maintain and understand a geo search index, and to query it in ways that provide value to you end users – that takes decades…

Maps on smartphones are so powerful and useful because they are far more than a digital version of an A-Z street atlas.

Written and submitted from home (51.425N, 0.331W)


Patent madness mapped !

Despite my fondness for most of the things that are developed in Cupertino’s factory of dreams,  Apple’s fondness of software patents is one of their least pleasant characteristics at the moment. If it’s not bad enough trying to protect the very idea of a tablet computer by patents ( imagine if someone had down that with laptops ?) this patent, is in effect trying to patent the process of cartography !

To illustrate just how ludicrous software patents have become, the image below displayed electronically could be in breach of Apple’s successful patent !

Clearly there is a need for Patents, but the current process by which almost any vague idea or any concept even with considerable prior art is granted a patent has to change.

Written and submitted from home (51.425N, 0.331W)

The return of the Apple sticker


You may remember my concerns with continuing the tradition of putting an Apple Sticker on my car, in a time when it so common to see Apple Computers that the cult was no more. Well thanks to eBay I have found salvation, a vintage rainbow Apple Sticker now adorns my car, demonstrating that yes I am an Apple enthusiast of the old school !

Thanks Andrew for the inspiration !

Written and submitted from home (51.425N, 0.331W)

Apple censors iPhone forum

Seems more of the ways of the mobile industry is rubbing off on the once shinny Apple brand.

This is a link to a disscussion on one of the Apple forums discussing availbailty of the white iPhone as an upgrade for O2 users in the UK. Only it has been removed…

Thanks to the wonders of the Google Index cache however we can view the original content, and is does not make happy reading for Apple or O2, however the fact that these critical comments have been removed shows poor judgement, and puts Apple in a very poor light.

The final comment by Neil Holmes before the discussion was removed is damming..

So much for Think Different !

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

Eyes down for Macworld..

The annual Applegeek fest known as MacWorld is coming up next week, and I’m all ready to play “keynote bingo” crossing off the expected phases as Steve says them.

Keynote Bingo

Me I’m prediciting as with everybody else, some sort of sub-notebook device related more to the iphone than a macbook, with a docking station for power, keyboard etc.. lots of talk about the iPhone SDK and more media coming to iTunes/Apple TV.

I like the bingo idea, perhaps I will put one together for this years AGI conference in the UK, anyone like to suggest the key phases beyond “Master-Map of the Nation” ?

Written and Submitted from the Google Office, London.