Apple's Map app non-apology: We're sorry you feel that way

Virginia Heffernan, Yahoo News
National Correspondent
Yahoo! News

Sorry. Extremely sorry. Such was the word today from Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, the $500 billion tech company and Great Khan of the Entire Universe that historically has exhibited pronounced narcissism and an allergy to contrition.

The apology came out the way it used to when the Fonz said “I love you”: strangled, choked, deeply unnatural.

As usual with apologies issued by reluctant apologizers—and, moreover, with apologies written by corporate communications types—Cook’s mea culpa did not say, “I’m sorry we did wrong.” It said, “I’m sorry you freaked out.” Or, rather, “We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers.” Where “this” is the company’s crappy geography app, Apple Maps.

Then Cook goes on about how Apple has really let itself down, because its own expectations for itself are so far above our mortal heads—so godlike, so barely attainable, “so incredibly high”—that the company can hardly draw another breath with the knowledge that something it has produced is even slightly flawed.

Spare us. What bugged users about Apple Maps was not that it was imperfect. Every app we use is imperfect. Instead, what was maddening was that you, Apple, turned so petty, arrogant and spiteful that you tried to drive the renowned marvel that is Google Maps—which since 2005 has tested, refined and made stunningly useful its high-res aerial and satellite images of virtually the whole planet—off your dumb new operating system, iOS6.

You pushed out a free, great thing and jammed in your amateur dimestore one, only because you were feeling afraid and grasping, and in so doing you showed a sicko side of yourself (one we all suspect has always been there). I don’t know if companies are like individuals, but if you were just a guy, that kind of dismal sportsmanship would catch up with you in the long run.

Maybe just in time for you to become the wealthiest company of all time.

It’s exciting, sort of, when Titans clash. In the mythical Californian kingdoms of Cupertino and Mountain View, Apple and Google dramatically have at each other. They show no mercy. As arms resound, and the specter of a zero-sum digital-domination game is raised, we consumers of these mongo brands, accustomed to being courted by AppGoog with relentless and agave-sweetened charm, are expected to fall silent and respectfully witness the showdown. That’s just what the mighty do. Maybe we’re even meant to choose sides.

(Side-choosing, one finds, is impossible: It’s the rare American consumer in 2012 who doesn’t owe a chunk of her brain to a densely marbled combo of Google and Apple.)

And both companies turn into such id-driven twerps in the name of monopoly. The companies are so mighty that the silliness of their egos and wills-to-power is hard to see through the density of their armor. We should maybe be grateful, then, for incidents like this latest dustup over Apple Maps. It lays that greed and pettiness bare. The company’s aesthetic of purity and perfection—however fascist in nature—is irresistible. But we shouldn’t forget that Apple is everywhere—in our pockets, in our brains, all over our credit-card bills—for a reason. And it’s not because the company loves us.