Gunning For Google? Apple Snaps Up Map Company


Apple appears to have stealthily purchased Placebase, an online map company, in a move that could continue to have the iPhone maker barreling toward a collision with search engine giant Google.

The move by Apple to develop its own map products in-house could be a precursor to removing the native Google Maps app from products like the iPhone. Using Placebase instead of Google Maps could continue to deepen the apparent rift that has formed between the two companies, dating back to Apple's rejection of a Google Voice app.

The evidence for Apple's July purchase of Placebase comes from two places. Fred Lalonde, founder of openplaces.org, on July 7 Tweeted that Apple had purchased Placebase. The second piece of evidence pointing toward the Apple acquisition comes from Jaron Waldman, CEO of Placebase, via LinkedIn. Waldman's current job is listed as "Geo Team at Apple."

For Apple, bringing maps in-house probably makes sense. By creating and loading its own native app for the iPhone or iPod Touch, for example, the company can rely less on Google. And recently, it seems that Apple has been preparing itself for a Silicon Valley break-up.

In August, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, resigned from Apple's board. Schmidt was already recusing himself from conversations about the iPhone once Google launched its Android OS for mobile phones. Last September, Google launched Chrome, a Web browser that competes with Apple's own Safari. In July, Google revealed that it planned to convert the Chrome browser into a fully fledged OS, bringing the two companies into competition in the operating system space as well. By the time he resigned, people were wondering which, if any, meetings Schmidt could attend as an Apple board member.

Schmidt's resignation from the board came on the heels of a possible slight of the search engine company by Apple. The Google Latitude app was rejected by the Cupertino crew, with the explanation being that Apple didn't want Google Latitude to be a native iPhone app because it could confuse users. Instead, Latitude must be used through the Safari browser on the iPhone.

Shortly after the Latitude flap died down in July, Apple refused to allow the Google Voice app for the iPhone into the App Store. In September, in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission it surfaced that Apple did, in fact, reject the Google Voice app, despite Apple publicly saying otherwise.

Now, with Apple snapping up a map company, it seems that the next battleground for the two companies will be mapped out -- it's just unclear whether the app will be coming from Google or Apple.