Apple is building its own Maps, but will it matter?
The story of Apple's Maps project (for simplicity we'll just call it Apple Maps) began just over 2 years ago in July of 2009 when Apple quietly purchased Placebase, which was the company that had created the PushPin API behind the Openplaces project. Both Placebase and Openplaces have essentially disappeared from the web since that acquisition. As of this writing, the Openplaces site couldn't be found, and the main page for Placebase just forwards to an overview of the PushPin API. The founder and CEO of Placebase, Jaron Waldman, has had his position on LinkedIn listed as being part of the Geo Team at Apple since that acquisition.
The next piece of the puzzle was Poly9. This was another quiet purchase by Apple, this one made in July of 2010. Poly9 was a Quebec-based startup which had used a number of different open tools including the PushPin API to create a Flash-based Google Earth clone called "Poly9 Globe". Of course, that product has also disappeared from the net since the acquisition. The prevailing theory is that Poly9 was acquired more for the programming team than for the actual product it had created.
The latest piece was C3 Technologies, which Apple apparently purchased last year, but the details of the acquisition were kept so tightly secret that it wasn't until this past week that Apple was uncovered to be the owner of the company. C3 has created some incredibly impressive tech, which allows 3D imaging to be built from traditional 2D maps and images. This is very similar to what Google has been doing with its own Maps product with the new MapsGL features. The video demo of C3's technology is pretty impressive too: