WSJ: Apple’s “Geo Team” Has Created a Replacement for Google Maps on iOS

The Wall Street Journal is reporting tonight Apple plans to replace Google Maps on iOS with its own in-house mapping solution, adding further weight to previous reports of the rumoured change:

Later this year, Apple is planning to oust Google Maps as the preloaded, default maps app from the iPhone and iPad and release a new mapping app that runs Apple’s own technology, according to current and former Apple employees. Apple could preview the new software, which will be part of its next mobile-operating system, as soon as next week at its annual developer conference in San Francisco, one person familiar with the plans says. Apple plans to encourage app developers to embed its maps inside their applications like social-networking and search services.

Just a week ago we saw a leaked screenshot of the 3D Apple Maps. Back in March, iPhoto in iOS revealed hints of Apple’s own maps, with other reports from 9to5Mac claiming a change was set to come. Google has plans to announce its ‘next dimension’ of Google Maps in a couple days, just prior to the launch of WWDC on June 11th.

According to former Apple employees, Apple has had plans to change Google Maps in iOS for years, and with Android smartphone shipments outselling the iPhone, plans were fast tracked. Apple’s strategy is to create a ‘holistic’ technology that consolidates maps with other Apple apps, according to a person familiar with the strategy. The idea is that if iCal knows you have a place to be across town and traffic jams start, Apple’s maps would alert you automatically about road conditions.

Apple’s New ‘Geo Team’

The WSJ continues to detail the background behind Apple’s plans to pursue their own mapping solution, after it became clear Google had secretly emerged as a competitor with their Android platform, and could no longer be relied upon for maps.

In 2009, Steve Jobs pursued Apple’s plans to build its own maps and acquired LA-based Placebase. These new employees formed the new ‘geo team’ and started off their positions at Apple seated across the hall from Jobs.

In 2010, Apple acquired Quebec-based Poly9, a small firm with 3D mapping technology similar to what we know as Google Earth. This is when Google caught on that Apple was taking a serious role in creating their own maps.

The ‘geo team’ eventually made their way into Scott Forstall’s iOS software division and worked in secret to create features to surpass Google Maps, with plans for a navigation app akin to a turn-by-turn GPS, according to sources.

Apple eventually built and replaced Google’s “geocoder” with its own version, a code that translates longitude and latitude into addresses. Apple released their own “geocoder” known as CLGeocoder last fall into iOS, and has remained under the radar of the public eye.

In April of 2011, Steve Jobs teased an ‘improved traffic service’ was set to be released in the future by Apple and they were building a crowd sourced database based on traffic, in an interview with Mobilized. This was also during the time when Apple was responding to ‘location gate’, and released a press release that contained the following info:

8. What other location data is Apple collecting from the iPhone besides crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower data?
Apple is now collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.

So is Apple set to unveil their much-anticipated version of maps at WWDC? All signs point to it right now, and soon all that hard work by the “geo team” will come to fruition.

What would you like to see in Apple’s own mapping solution? A built in turn-by-turn GPS? Yes please! I just hope Canadian support comes at launch, so we don’t have to end up waiting like we have with Siri.

[via WSJ]

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