News is out that Apple was the company who had acquired C3 Technologies last August (and shut it down). C3 is a mapping company known for its capacity to build maps that include 3D buildings, textures and all (like Nokia does). Unlike many mapping companies that rely on a combination of satellite photos and GPS information, C3 could build maps and textured building models with planes (see video in the full post). This is a technique that allows for multiple (relatively shallow) angles, which is necessary to create textures for every sides of buildings, and that is simply impossible with high altitude satellites. The downside of this technique is that the amount of terrain covered by a plane is much smaller than what a satellite can cover. That said, Apple can probably buy the “big picture” data from someone else. Anyway, you can guess where this is going…As I recently said in my review of the iPhone 4S, Google is using Google Maps as a key differentiation for Android handsets, and unfortunately, Apple’s handsets have been lagging in features for some time now. We have identified mapping as a “killer app” for smartphones, and every serious contender will end up having some sort of proprietary mapping technology. Microsoft, Nokia, Google do, and Apple aims to get this capability as well.
Of course, Apple probably wants to “re-invent” mapping, but it is easier said than done, and we will have to see if the addition of 3D buildings, as beautiful as they are, actually add real value to a mapping service. In the short term, Apple needs to catch up with Google Maps first, and break free from Google on that front. I suspect that within a year, Apple will introduce iMaps, or whatever they will call it.
I would love to see a mapping service where I can search and build my route on a PC, then seamlessly retrieve the information on my smartphone. Apple could easily do that with iCloud, and so far, nobody has done something that is seamless. What would you like to see in an “iMap” app? Post a comment below.