In early 2012, Apple acquired Chomp, largely to fix the broken search, recommendation and discovery features of the iOS App Store.
Two years later, app discovery on the iOS App Store remains pretty much as broken as ever. Maybe that’s why Cathy Edwards, Chomp’s co-founder who went on, post-acquisition, to become Director of Evaluation and Quality on Apple Maps, is leaving Apple come April 11.
Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California (image taken by Benjamin Feenstra)
It was widely reported in January that Apple was in talks to buy Waze, an Israeli startup with a hugely popular maps app. Waze was rumored to be asking Apple for $750 million. The same outlet that broke the acquisition rumor quickly backpedaled and said no such deal was taking place. Google ended up buying Waze in June for $1 billion.
And so goes the buyout game in Silicon Valley, a power play where tech giants like Apple and Google court hot startups with the hopes of adding them to their war chests.
Apple had its biggest year ever for acquisitions in 2013, with a record 15 smaller companies joining the fold. A dozen of them have now been publicly disclosed.
For an entity as secretive as Apple, examining the companies it buys is one of the only ways to peek into its future plans. When AuthenTec, a company that specialized in fingerprint readers and identification software, was purchased in July 2012, speculation immediately followed. What did Apple want with fingerprint sensors? The answer ended up being obvious, and the technology debuted in Touch ID in September 2013.
Often the outcome of an Apple acquisition isn’t so immediately apparent.
Historically, Apple acquires far fewer companies than its competitors. But the line is starting to blur. Google publicly bought three times as many companies as Apple in 2012 and not even twice as many in 2013. Apple bought more companies than Microsoft in 2013.
So what does all of this say about Apple’s future?
It’s come a long way from its disastrous early days (although there is still the occasional tendency to direct someone the wrong way up an airport taxiway), but Apple Maps may finally be taking the lead over its competitors — if you’re inclined to believe Apple’s latest patent.
The patent — recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office — was filed May 31 this year, and applies to an “Interactive Map” application, which would display multiple layers of information regarding local landmarks.
Remember that time Cult of Mac reported that Apple’s oft-maligned iOS Maps function steered people the wrong way across Fairbanks Airport Taxiway? If you’re anything like this writer, you probably either chuckled at the egregiousness of the error or else were momentarily aghast, and then went on with the rest of your day.
Well, in the eyes of some what you should have been thinking is: “hey, I could probably sue over that.”
Perhaps it’s better that you didn’t, however, because the class action lawsuit that has been filed against Apple for iOS Maps is a bit of a headscratcher.
Apple has been launched a full court press on Maps ever since its disappointing launch last fall. The company has already gobbled up a few mappingcompanies but it’s not ready to stop quite yet, as it just purchased the map app Embark.
Embark, Inc. focuses on building free transit apps to help navigate public transportation. According to a report from Jessica Lessin, Apple acquired the small team very recently and plans to directly integrate Embark’s tech into Apple Maps.
Google published a big update for it’s Google Earth app for iOS today. The new version includes an improved UI with a left hand panel that makes it easier to enable different layers of information.
Along with the refreshed UI, the Google Earth update adds Google Maps Street View to the service so you can explore the world in 3D flyover or at street level. Improved directions and search were also added to the list of new features.
Earlier this morning Apple shares were trading below $400 for the first time in over 16 months, as the stock has continued to slide from its high point of over $700 per share that it enjoyed just last year.
After being fired from his post at Apple for the Apple Maps fiasco last year, Richard Williamson has found a new home at one of tech’s other superstars – Facebook.
Richard Williamson played a key role in the development of the iPhone’s software under Steve Jobs. After working at Apple for more than a decade, Williamson was put in charge of the Apple Maps team that replaced Google Maps in iOS 6.
Kicking Google Maps to the curb last year in favor of its own homegrown solution caused quite a stir last year for Apple. Most of the rage over Apple Maps has died down, but Google’s former CEO, Eric Schmidt, sees no reason why things can’t be repaired.
In fact, Schmidt admitted today that Google would love to work with Apple to set Google Maps as the primary navigation tool on iOS. With tensions between the two companies still being tight, we’d say there’s not a slim chance in hell of that happening, but Schmidt thinks it could.
One of the apps commonly toted as a replacement for iOS 6’s Maps app after the latter was released (and proved to be something of a debacle for Cupertino) was Waze, a crowd-sourced traffic app.
Now, according to a new interview conducted on-stage at AllThingsD’s Dive Into Mobile Conference, even Waze CEO Noam Bardim was surprised by how many people hated Apple Maps, and said that two years previously, consumers would have thought is was amazing.