I find it fascinating what a company can get away with once it has established good-will momentum in the market. Case in point: The so-called Mapocalypse delivered by Apple in the recently released iOS 6 and new iPhone 5, for which the CEO was compelled to publicly apologize. For any other company (RIM, for instance), this would have spelled a massive drop in orders and punishment of the stock by Wall Street. Apple's main competitor, Google, isn't cutting the leafy logo any slack, gleefully withholding a native Google Maps app from the iTunes App Store. (for those of us who upgraded to iOS 6 already and are in anguish about the possibility of aimlessly wandering the streets of the next city on our travel itinerary, there are instructions for how to set up the Google Maps web application to resemble an app on your iOS 6 iPhone here)
So... has this epic fail hit Apple where it hurts? Eh, not so much. In fact, Apple actually set a record for shipments of the iPhone 5, despite the maps debacle! And the folks on Wall Street are playing one-up with each other to see who can predict a higher price for the company's stock - $700, $800, do I hear $850 ??
How does this happen?? I suspect that this is a hint at the residual value of past investment in user-centered focus and design. Discarding the outlier Maps fiasco, Apple products are still a joy to use. Frankly, I think that the Map thing is an example of Apple making a rare solely-business oriented decision, straying from their usual focus on the end user experience as primary. The executives blinded by competitive zeal to hurt someone (Google) caused the company to hurt a lot of us in the process. But there are so many other elements of the company's products that are so delightful, and this kind of overt crass behavior so rare in the past, that the market (consumers and Wall Street) will give Apple a "free pass" ... this time. To me, that shows the huge value of user experience investment and design - it can overcome a stupendous business blunder.