Apple purchased map company Placebase in July

Apple has quietly purchased mapping service Placebase and its accompanying Pushpin API, hinting that the company may be planning to use the assets should it need to replace Google Maps in several of its applications, such as the Maps application on the iPhone and iPod touch. Citing a Twitter update from the founder of, which used the Pushpin API in its software, along with an updated LinkedIn profile for Placebase CEO Jaron Waldman, who is now listed as part of the “Geo Team” at Apple, Computerworld reports that Apple purchased the company in July, and suggests that the company may be looking to replace Google Maps in its products in an effort to further reduce dependency on Google. Although Google Maps offers advanced features like Street View, Placebase offered a wide variety of customizations and features that integrated both public and private data sets, and the Pushpin API, which offered an easy way to layer data onto the maps. Despite the article’s strong suggestions, it is possible Apple purchased the company for reasons unrelated to its relationship with Google, such as bringing in more talent for development of more advanced map- and location-based services.

  1. I suppose it makes good corporate sense for Apple to buy and own software and hardware companies. Google in some ways is a competitor to Apple. Yet, I wonder if Apple wouldn’t be better off in the long run to embrace some possible competitors, even encourage them as long as they keep developing for Apple platforms. As a long-time Mac user, I remember a time when developers of software and hardware avoided Apple-based products. I am not sure, given Apple’s growth, that could happen again, but I would hate to go back to the dearth of support Apple used to get just a few years ago.

  2. Google is more than “in some ways” a competitor. If Android based smartphones are well received, that will make Google Apple’s number one competitor in Apple’s only major growth area.

    Still, I agree that Apple shouldn’t alienate the standards the public is going to want unless they’re absolutely certain the can do a better job in-house and without resorting to the sort of protectionist application approval process they’ve been showing signs of over the past year. If the iPhone OS becomes perceived as yet another Apple centric sandbox rather than one where all developers are equally received, they’ll be knocking at other doors soon enough.

  3. Android smartphones are already well-received but I don’t think that makes Google Apple’s number one competitor. Apple is a hardware company first, a software company second. They make money selling hardware. That being the case I don’t think its a clear-cut case of Google vs. Apple in the phone arena since Google only makes the OS which the phone companies then modify (see the HTC Hero). I think the more important piece is the App Store. None of the other platforms have something similar and until they do I don’t think the sales numbers will be comparable.

  4. “Android smartphones are already well-received but I don’t think that makes Google Apple’s number one competitor. Apple is a hardware company first, a software company second. They make money selling hardware.”

    Wow, so if phones featuring the Android OS begin to gain significant market share, that doesn’t affect Apple? You are smoking the good stuff. Apple is not a hardware or software company, they’re both. You can not buy Apple hardware and run anything you want on it and you can’t buy (most) Apple software and run it on anything, the two are typically inextricably linked, and the iPhone is definitely an example of such a bonded product. Moreso, the chief selling point to the iPhone OS products is their 85,000 and growing applications compared to the relatively stagnant Symbian and Blackberry markets.

    Sell more Android based hardware, Apple is growing their own market share less quickly. Sell enough Android based hardware, Apple is selling less of their own hardware. Sell enough Android based hardware and its much more open applications environment attracts as many or more developers as the iPhone OS and Apple’s product becomes less appealing compared to the competition.

    And keep in mind, the iPhone is Apple’s only significantly *growing* market. The “plain” iPods are stable compared to the total market. The computing market is likewise stable compared to the total market (its minor increase in relative sales recently is nice – and involves a bunch of deliberate data omission, but it doesn’t change the world wide install base of the different platforms – at this pace of “growth”, Apple will capture a whole 20% of desktop computers sometime well into the next century). Nope, the iPhone with its subscriber fees and high priced hardware and application revenue and developer fees is Apple biggest growth division and that which threatens it is Apple’s biggest competitor in any real sense.

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