Apple wants to map your favorite malls, airports
The Android-vs.-iOS battle continues as the tech giant aims to add indoor GPS apps to its smartphones.
In a move that could intensify the battle between Android and iOS, Apple (AAPL) has reportedly acquired an indoor GPS company to begin mapping malls, airports and other hotspots.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple may have paid as much as $20 million for WiFiSLAM, a two-year-old startup.
While the deal has not been announced publicly, there are already signs that WiFiSLAM is under new management.
The company's Twitter page, @WiFiSLAM, has not been updated with a new tweet since January 23. That account links to WiFiSLAM.com, which appears to have been shut down. AngelList, which runs a platform for startups, has updated its listing of WiFiSLAM to announce that it has been acquired by Apple.
Founded by Joseph Huang (a former software engineer intern at Google), Jessica Tsoong, Darin Tay and Dave Millman, WiFiSLAM developed technology to pinpoint a smartphone's location within 2.5 meters. The company uses ambient WiFi signals (which are already present in many buildings) to provide this info in real time.
By acquiring WiFiSLAM, Apple will be able to bring indoor maps of malls, airports, convention halls and other complexes to iOS.
Apple is not the first company to explore the possibilities of indoor maps, however. Two years ago, Google (GOOG) announced that it would bring indoor maps exclusively to its mobile phone platform, Android.
IKEA, Mall of America and Home Depot (HD) were among the first businesses Google supported with indoor maps. Chicago O'Hare, San Francisco and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta were some of the first airports supported by the initiative.
Google, which employs more than 53,000 people, developed most of its mapping technology in-house. While Apple has more individuals on its payroll (72,800 as of October 2012, according to the company's annual report), the company has enlisted the help of outsiders to build and tweak its various mapping tools.
Apple stunned the world when it announced that Google Maps would not be included as the default maps app with iOS 6. The iPhone maker replaced Google Maps with its own application, which was simply titled "Maps," promising that it would deliver a better way for users to find their destination.
That proved to be a greater challenge than Apple anticipated, leading to a legion of complaints and an official apology (see Benzinga) from the company's CEO, Tim Cook.
Noam Bardin, the CEO of Waze, a community-based traffic and navigation app for iOS and Android, was one of Apple's harshest critics. "Apple went out and partnered with the weakest player," he told Business Insider, referring to TomTom (TMOAF). "They're now coming out with the lowest, weakest data set and they're competing against Google, which has the highest data set."
Months later, rumors circulated that Apple would swallow its pride and acquire Waze for as much as $400 million. That rumor appears to have been false (see Benzinga).
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The solid report comes a month after the retailer closed all of its Canadian operations.
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