A lot of people are buzzing today about Computer World’s post indicating that Apple recently bought a mapping company, Placebase.
It’s nothing new for Apple to buy a small company for IP, a specific piece of soft/hardware or just to get access to good talent. What is interesting in this case is that Placebase had all their own mapping tiles.
Mapping tiles are the little squares used by all mapping programs from Google to Tom Tom to actually display where you are. Normally these are incredibly expensive. Nokia got into the game a while ago looking to open up a secondary revenue stream by buying Navteq for $8.1 billion.
In Apple’s case it’s less an issue of owning a revenue stream as it is cutting off one from Google. Every iPhone or iPod touch that ships with Apple’s ‘Maps’ application requires Apple to pay Google. And with the ability of third party applications to embed Google’s tiles in their own applications and over 60 million compatible devices sold to date it’s only going to get more expensive.
If there’s one thing that Apple’s recent purchases have indicated it’s that they want to own their own destiny and by owning their own tiles they can cut Google out of the iPhone revenue.