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Apple purchase of Placebase a rift with Google?

updated 07:50 am EDT, Thu October 1, 2009

Apple quietly buys map firm Placebase

Apple has stealthily bought an online map firm in what could represent an aid to the iPhone but a split with Google, a search has discovered. A startup company, Placebase, was bought by Apple in July but provided so little attention about the takeover that it wasn't until a check on former CEO Jaron Waldman's LinkedIn profile confirmed the move. Waldman is now part of a "Geo Team" at Apple performing in an unspecified role.

The move hints at a possible shift away from a dependency on Google for location data for the iPhone and apps like iPhoto, though to what extent isn't clear. Placebase was noted for overlaying maps with specialized data, such as population demographics, rather than generating maps themselves. However, much of Google's information for Apple products comes through specific utilities, such as routing or Street View. Apple writes its own software even in the case of the iPhone's Maps utility, and Google's own maps are often generated based on third-party map information.

Apple's insistence on this control has already caused a minor split with Google. The search giant was forced to launch Latitude as a web app as Apple claimed a native iPhone version was too similar to the built-in Maps utility. Google also has a vested interest in refining Latitude, Google Maps and other location utilities both on its own Android platform as well as on smartphones with less restrictive app policies, such as BlackBerries.

Regardless of how deliberate the competition may be, Apple may also be seeking less reliance on Google as a contingency measure. The Federal Trade Commission is still investigating Apple and Google over concerns of possible anti-competitive collusion, and pressure from this as well as the unveiling of Chrome OS helped push Google CEO Eric Schmidt to resign from Apple's Board of Directors in August. A legally imposed barrier between Apple and Google might push the former to seek a replacement for some or all of Google's mapping services.

by MacNN Staff



  1. ViktorCode

    Joined: Dec 1969


    There's no split with Google

    The company was bought to get Apple technology allowing creating enhanced Maps app. Google data stays.

  1. niji

    Joined: Dec 1969


    great news but actually shocking as well

    love the deal. really do. go apple.
    but as APPL is a publicly traded company it is incredibly disappointing that no public official records have mentioned this.
    even more amazing is that no wall street type saw this.
    if the deal was done in july its been at least 60 days.

  1. Hurley42

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Hopefully more accurate maps...

    Google maps are horribly inaccurate in rural areas (at least for Oregon). I have been using Bing maps regularly since they almost always can pinpoint an address, even in the middle of the mountains. Google maps are usually a couple miles off. So, if this would allow Apple to provide better location and maps, then I will be pleased.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    So, because Apple bought one small company, it all of a sudden is a rift with Google? Wouldn't one think that Apple's alliance with Yahoo for iPhone push mail support would have been more of a sign of a rift? Or google starting their own phone business? Or Apple giving people the ability to change the engine for the search box in Safari?

    Those are nothing, but buying some small startup company that happens to do maps and possibly could replace using google's map usage on the iPhone is sign of a 'rift'?

  1. _Rick_V_

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Worst. article. ever.

    How's the purchase of some small peanut company signal a rift with Google?!

    My understanding of Placebase (from what little I read, and my hunch of how Apple will incorporate them) is that they offer differing types of geographic data than what's currently offered thru Google. That doesn't mean Google will be replaced, that means that it will be augmented.

  1. starwarrior

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Other Signs

    I have been user of AdSense on web sites prepared by iWeb the Apple software. I had no problems until Eric left the board. Now passwords and accounts are inaccessible and no one answers the phone at Google. I wonder which side of the interface has decided to shut down.

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