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Apple Acquires Poly9
July 14, 2010 07:03 PM

Over the past several years, major tech companies have been trying to diversify by pushing out a larger variety of products. Anyone who has any idea about the nature of Google’s business knows that the company is involved with everything from books to building operating systems. Yesterday, I talked about Intel’s potential acquisition of Infineon’s wireless division and what it would mean for mobile devices, as the company would be freshly entering the market. On a similar note, Apple is another company that has entered different markets with the release of the original iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. Apple has now decided to acquire Poly9, makers of Poly9 Globe, which leaves many speculating as to where the company is headed next.

About two years ago, Poly9 developed FreeEarth, an app that was similar to Google Earth but failed to offer as much. One major difference between the two was that FreeEarth was Flash-based, making it much slower. Since then, Poly9 has come out with Globe, an app written in JavaScript and a far cry from FreeEarth. The software allows users to spin a 3D Earth, and provides real-time statistics on the user’s location. The app also provides high-resolution images of US metropolitan areas but only at the expense of being 303kB. Globe runs on any browser and any platform, and does not require a download. All these facts were enough for Apple to go ahead and pick the company up.

The acquisition of Poly9 could be an indication of Apple’s intention to launch a map service in the near future similar to Google’s. The extra competition is not all that surprising, considering that both companies are already locked head to head in the battle between Android and iOS4. If Apple goes through with such a service, it will be interesting to see how it fares against Google’s vast data acquisition capabilities. Google is the most widely used search engine on the iPhone, giving it an advantage over Apple as it collects key data from both iPhone and Android users. Because of that fact, it is rumored that Apple is working on its own search engine for the iPhone, which would certainly aid efforts to release a map service as comprehensive as Google’s.

In addition to the Poly9 acquisition, Apple has also acquired Placebase, a Google Maps competitor. The purchase of both companies is a sure sign that something is brewing at Apple. Due to Apple’s current emphasis on the new iPhone, any new services will most likely be targeted at mobile users. As emphasized earlier, Apple is probably trying to transition away from Google Maps as much as possible. Whether an alternative from Apple would bring something new to map software or make existing app features better is yet to be seen. Judging the track record of the company, I would assume the former. In the past, Apple has not only been able to get past many technical hurdles but has also created an entirely new brand image. It will definitely be fascinating to see how it translates its previous successes into its current ambitions.

Note: Poly9 has been taken down.

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