Apple buys map service to compete with Google?

The apparent purchase of PlaceBase may explain why Apple required Google Latitude to be a Web-based app and not a native iPhone app.

Screenshot by Steven Musil/CNET

We may now have a better idea of why Apple objects to Google Latitude.

It appears that Apple has purchased PlaceBase, a company that produced a maps API called Pushpin and offered a mapping service much like Google Maps. The evidence, dug up by ComputerWorld's Seth Weintraub, first appeared in the form of a tweet in July by Fred Lalonde, the founder of Openspaces.org, a company that used PlaceBase's software, stating that Apple had purchased PlaceBase:

Apple bought PlaceBase - all hush hush. Pushpin site taken offline. Hyperlocal iPhone?

The next clue apparently came from Jaron Waldman, PlaceBase's founder and CEO. His LinkedIn page now lists PlaceBase under his "past" experience and now lists his current occupation as a member of Apple's "GEO Team." In addition, Placebase.com and Pushpin.com have been taken down.

All this leads one to believe that Apple has snapped up PlaceBase. However, Apple representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Not long after Apple's reported purchase of PlaceBase in July, Google released a version of its Latitude mobile application for the iPhone. But Apple, curiously, decreed that it be a Web-based app and not a native iPhone app , which raised some eyebrows.

The application, which allows you to show your location on a map so that friends may find you, works much the same way as on other platforms like Android, Symbian, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile. The big exception for the iPhone version is that you have to use the service in the Safari Web browser.

At the time, Google explained the matter this way: "After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a Web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles."

Apple's rationale apparently was that people would get confused between a Google Maps app and a Google Latitude app. The explanation seemed a bit baffling, since customer confusion didn't seem to be a concern when Apple approved at least 13 To-Do List applications and 30 streaming music apps.

However, the apparent purchase of PlaceBase seems to explain why Apple would place such restrictions on Google--Apple has a similar feature coming for the iPhone that it doesn't want competition for.

The Google Latitude episode is just the latest spat between the two companies. The same month that Apple said no to Google Latitude, Apple rejected the Google Voice application from its App Store, according to a letter Google sent to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is investigating the matter and has requested information from Apple, Google, and Apple iPhone partner AT&T.

A few days after news of the FCC investigation broke, Apple announced that Google CEO Eric Schmidt would be resigning from its board of directors . Schmidt, who had served on Apple's board for exactly three years, had said in July that he was planning to discuss the future of his role on Apple's board given the advent of Chrome OS, an operating system that expanded the fields in which the two companies compete.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

HOT ON CNET

Looking for an affordable tablet?

CNET rounds up high-quality tablets that won't break your wallet.