updated 12:42 pm EST, Tue February 19, 2013
Second big hiring call in the past three weeks
For the second time this month, Apple's corporate job listings have posted new openings for software engineers to add to Apple's Maps team. Seven new positions are hiring, compared to the 10 jobs advertised in the first week of February. While some of the positions may be repeats of previous calls for talent, new among the listings is an opening for a "computer-vision expert" to work on Flyover, a senior software engineer for vector content and a Geocoder Data Analyst.
Apple's Maps app has improved significantly from its original debut, and it has won some praise over time for its use of higher-quality vector graphics and better turn-by-turn implementation. Driving tests in various large cities have shown the program to be generally equal or superior to both Google Maps and dedicated GPS units, but the app was riddled with errors and graphic glitches on its initial debut -- it also dropped transit directions, seen as a major downgrade for dependent users.
Apple has steadily worked on the program ever since it had to issue an apology for the initial quality, and has actively promoted third-party mapping applications in the App Store since. Google -- after initially pretending to have been caught off-guard by Apple taking the Maps app in-house -- finally unveiled its own updated iOS app, which added in all the features Apple had been requesting but had been turned down by Google previously, wishing to reserve premium features for its own Android platform.
The rash of new hires for the Maps team suggest a strong new effort on the program, perhaps even a complete overhaul from the initial version. Engineers have been hired for work on Siri integration, the overall user interface, real-time map display, points of interest labelling and more. The new listings mention responsibilities for improving the programs 3D terrain overview abilities, building "highly-optimized vector content" and improving the overall accuracy of the maps, a "cornerstone" of the application. The previous batch of notices asked for a software engineer whose sole responsibility would be improving navigation.
The hiring notices suggest that Apple is committing significant resources to what will presumably be an overhauled "Apple Maps 2.0" at some point in the future, and also hint at the further expansion of Siri previously confirmed through job listings. Also being improved is MapKit, the interface third-party programs use to integrate Apple's Maps into their own applications.