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SimpleGeo navigates from stealth to beta

Start-up hopes to make it easy to bring location-aware features to any Web or mobile service--but we haven't seen it in action yet.

Location awareness is hot, from gamelike social services such as Foursquare and Gowalla to platforms such as Google Latitude. Now one start-up is hoping to make it as easy for any company to integrate into a Web or mobile service as it is for retailers to use PayPal. Meet SimpleGeo, which on Thursday is launching into a private beta.

Boulder, Colo.-based SimpleGeo, co-founded by former Digg engineer Joe Stump and Socialthing founder Matt Galligan (who sold the would-be FriendFeed competitor to AOL), started out as a company called Crash Corp. earlier this year. The goal was to make augmented-reality applications for mobile devices like the iPhone, but the founders said that building the location-aware infrastructure for their first game took a whopping three months.

So they changed their company name and angle: SimpleGeo's purpose is to build that infrastructure for other companies to eliminate the development hell, hoping to do for "geo" apps what PayPal did for sites requiring payment systems or Facebook did for sites requiring logins and social-networking features. The complete offering, which can also build in augmented-reality features, encompasses storage, analytics, and a software development kit (SDK).

Three versions are available: free, $399 per month, and $2,499 per month. A public version is slated to launch in the spring.

Nobody's really doing this yet, though apparently a few other start-ups are toying with similar business plans, and SimpleGeo is still new enough that it has not yet closed a round of venture funding. Because it's in private beta, we also haven't yet seen just how powerful it is (though Galligan has posted some test video to Flickr) so it's not yet possible to answer the big, glaring question: what if Google makes a big, developer-focused Latitude push that could snuff out smaller competition?