Apple Buys 3D Mapping Company

Apple has acquired mapping company C3 to boost the topographical technology in iOS devices

Apple has apparently acquired a 3D-mapping company, C3 Technologies, with an eye toward buttressing its topographical capabilities.

That news arrives courtesy of the blog 9to5Mac, which suggests that the C3 purchase, combined with earlier acquisitions of mapping-software companies Placebase and Poly9, means Apple is trying to wean its iOS devices off Google Maps.

Missile technology

C3 Technologies crafts 3D maps with a high degree of detail; according to 9to5Mac, its platform developed “from declassified missile targeting methods”. In theory, Apple could use its portfolio of mapping-technology acquisitions to craft a robust maps platform deeply integrated with other iOS features such as Siri (itself the product of an acquisition). In turn, that would challenge already-strong maps offerings from Google, Microsoft and Nokia.

Despite pressure from Google’s Android, iPhone and iPad sales remain strong. For its fiscal 2011 fourth quarter, Apple reported revenues of $28.27 billion (£17bn), with a net profit of $6.62 billion, a marked increase over the year-ago quarter’s $20.34 billion in revenue and $4.31 billion net profit. The company managed to sell some 17.07 million iPhones during the quarter, good for 21 percent growth year-over-year, along with 11.12 million iPads, a 166 percent unit increase over the same quarter in 2010. Sales of Macs over the same period increased 26 percent to 4.89 million units.

The iPhone 4S managed to sell 4 million units by the end of its first weekend of release, reaffirming the smartphone franchise’s popularity among consumers. The newest device in the iPhone line includes an A5 processor and a more powerful camera aperture.

iPhone 4S demand

During Apple’s 18 October earnings call, chief executive Tim Cook suggested the company is doing everything to ensure iPhone 4S supply remains adequate to holiday demand. “We’re confident that we will have a large supply,” he said. “I don’t want to predict when supply and demand might balance. … I’m confident we will set an all-time record for iPhone this quarter.”

He also summed up the iPad’s current strength with regard to its competition, which consists primarily of Android-based tablets such as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. “Some had different form-factors, different price points, and I think it’s reasonable to say that none of these have gained much traction thus far,” he said, terming himself “extremely confident” about the iPad’s prospects.

At some undetermined point in the future, Apple could try to boost those prospects with some new maps.