Apple Makes a Wrong Turn as Users Blast Map Switch


By Ian Sherr

Apple Inc.’s move to replace Google Inc.’s mapping software with its own on its mobile devices sparked a world-wide consumer backlash, marking a rare strategic blunder by a company more accustomed to rave reviews from users.

As Apple prepped its stores for the first sales of the iPhone 5 on Friday, the company faced vociferous complaints from consumers over the mapping application it released this week, which replaces the Google maps that have been part of the iPhone since the device’s initial 2007 release. The new maps come installed on the iPhone 5 and will be seen by other users who upgrade their iPhones and iPads to the company’s latest iOS 6 mobile operating system.

The criticism poured in world-wide as users of the new maps found misplaced labels for businesses and landmarks, cities with missing roads and erroneous features like a fractured river in Ann Arbor, Mich. A search for the Golden Gate Bridge yielded a marker roughly four miles away in San Francisco.

Complaints of the application came amid praise for the new iPhone and mobile software as consumers and bloggers took to dozens of websites—including Facebook, Twitter and a newly created blog sarcastically called “The Amazing iOS 6 Maps”—to circulate screen shots of the mapping errors and compare them to Google’s service.

But more than an embarrassment, the misstep highlights Apple’s challenge as it takes on Google and others with Web services.


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(Published Sept. 21, 2012, on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.)

Apple Gave Few Phones to Other Retailers


By Ian Sherr and Ann Zimmerman

Apple Inc.’s new iPhone 5 remained a hot item following the sales kickoff Friday, with customers flocking to stores to buy the new handset. But they seemed to have little luck finding the gadget at the Silicon Valley company’s retail partners.

While Apple’s own stores appeared to be selling the new device in large numbers, other retail chains that offered the device had limited quantities from the outset, according to sales staff in stores and other people familiar with the situation.

Shortages have hit Apple partners in the past, but the disparity seemed more pronounced this time.

Some Best Buy Co. stores received as few as 10 new phones for launch day, according to a person familiar with the matter. The phones were all one variety of data size and carrier, this person said, leaving many preorders for the other variations unfulfilled.

Other Best Buy shops got as many as 40 phones of differing varieties, but even these weren’t enough to fill preorders, according to store workers. The company on Thursday began emailing customers who had pre-ordered the iPhone 5, saying it had not received enough of the specific model they ordered.


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(Published Sept. 24, 2012, in The Wall Street Journal.)

Boutique Cinemas Veer Toward the Nonprofit Scene


By Ian Sherr

Some of San Francisco’s boutique movie theaters have found a new way to boost revenue: become a nonprofit or rely on financial support from nonprofit groups.

In recent years, the Roxie Theater has become a nonprofit, while the Balboa Theatre and the Vogue Theatre have started using more dollars from a nonprofit organization for maintenance and upgrades. Of the roughly 20 movie theaters in the city, about half aren’t part of a theater chain, according to theater executives.

The Roxie became a nonprofit in 2008 after its owner, the New College of California, shut down. Today, benefit events and a new membership program have helped drive the theater’s growth. Its nonprofit status has also allowed it to more easily apply for grants to help bolster its operating budget.

The Roxie rang up sales of about $510,000 last year, up from about $430,000 four years ago. Donations and membership fees helped its operating budget grow to about $750,000.


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(Published Sept. 12, 2012, in The Wall Street Journal.)