Maps roundup: Early Placebase founder leaves for startup, Alaska airport directions disabled, & secret project job listing

Apple-Maps-hero

A few Apple map related stories have popped up today starting with the departure of early Placebase founder– the mapping company Apple bought back in 2009–  Jaron Waldman. After Apple bought Placebase, Waldman started and lead the Apple Geo team behind the Apple Maps infrastructure and location services on iOS and Mac like MapKit and CoreLocation. He was at Apple up until last month and even filed for numerous Apple mapping patents, but recently left to work at a “new startup” according sources and verified by his LinkedIn page.

As Waldman is on his way out, the Apple Maps team today posted a job listing (via Macrumors) seeking a web UI designer to “design, develop, and maintain complex front-end code for a new secret project.” Unfortunately we don’t get many hints at what the project would consist of, but the job listing adds that the successful applicant would join “a small team working on an advanced web platform upon which many of Apple’s future services will be based.” It is almost like Apple knows the listing will get lots of publicity if it adds ‘secret project’ therefore attracting a wider audience of potential candidates.

Finally, over a year into Apple’s Maps launch, Apple is still getting press for some hiccups it is yet to work out. A couple days ago news broke that Apple’s Maps app was directing drivers in Alaska down a dangerous route across a Fairbanks International Airport runway and taxiway. It’s certainly not the first time that Apple’s Maps app has given dangerous directions to drivers (those lacking common sense anyway) since its controversial launch, and today airport officials confirmed that Apple has disabled directions to the airport until it fixes the directions: Read more

Poll: Are you worried that iOS 6 Maps ‘update’ won’t have important data that Google’s maps did?

image via reddit

When Apple demoed its new in-house, iOS 6 Maps app at WWDC in June, replacing the Google Maps backend used in previous versions of iOS, first impressions from many users raised concerns over whether it could compete with the old Google Maps iOS app they were used to. Apple has been steadily improving the Maps app with each beta release, including recently expanding coverage of 3D maps to new cities, but its limitations could be a source of frustration for upgrading iPhone owners in the coming weeks.

Macworld’s Jason Snell raised some alarm bells this week at the post-iPhone 5 roundtable (11:00 in), saying Maps did not feel ready and he was concerned that long-time Maps users would be disappointed. We received lots of comments and forum posts from users who refuse to update until transit times were included.

The move was not surprisingly viewed as a strategic one for Apple, and fueled by powerful technologies from PlacebaseC3 Technologies, and Poly9 acquisitions, but will Apple be able to smooth iOS 6 Maps app enough to keep users happy when they update to iOS 6 and make the transition from Google Maps later this month?
Read more

Apple acquired mind-blowing 3D mapping company C3 Technologies, looking to take iOS Maps to the next level

A 3D model of Las Vegas Strip created by Apple purchased C3

Since the original iPhone’s debut in 2007, Apple’s iOS devices have made use of an Apple-built Google Maps application to provide users with a quick glance at driving directions, traffic, route guidance, current location information, and details about destinations. Like with most sections of Apple’s business, the company is continually innovating, looking to take products to the next level.

A few years ago, Apple set out to seemingly reinvent this iOS mapping experience. As 9to5Mac reported in 2009, Apple scooped up their own mapping software development company called Placebase. In the summer of last year, Apple went one step further in their obvious pursuit of a completely in-house mapping solution and acquired a 3D mapping firm called Poly9.

A third mapping company for Apple…

Read more

Placebase team at Apple file “Schematic Maps” patent dynamically detailing important data

In a report from Computerworld way back in 2009, we learned that Apple had quietly acquired Maps API company Placebase. Then, founder of Placebase and CEO, Jaron Waldman, started working at Apple on a new “Geo Team”, presumably helping to integrate Placebase mapping technologies into future Apple products.

Fast forward two years to a new patent application titled “Schematic Maps”, filed by Apple Inc. and published today with Waldman, along with Placebase co-founder Moran Ben-David, listed as inventors.

Essentially the patent describes new methods of modifying a map in order to highlight certain objects by distorting others. For example, Apple could provide more data to the user (especially those on smaller screens) by blurring useless data and highlighting what it predicts is most useful to the user at any given time. You can imagine this being particularly useful for navigation. If a user were to request directions to a specific location, the maps could dynamically blur data that isn’t helpful and modify objects or landmarks that would otherwise be difficult to locate.

A snippet from the patent summary explains:

The following relates to preparing and presenting schematic maps, which are maps that present information in a format that presents only information that is most relevant to a given situation in order to provide a simple and clear representation sufficient to aid a user in guidance or orientation. The schematic maps as described herein can be formatted based on the attributes of a display on which they are presented so that the map layout and presentation can be optimized for the particular display. The schematic maps can be “distorted” to better illustrate important maps areas in greater detail and using a relatively larger display area while deemphasizing less important map areas by illustrating them in less detail and using a relatively smaller display area, and thus the schematic maps can be devoid of adherence to a particular scale.

There was originally speculation that Apple might be acquiring Placebase in order to build their own native Maps application, rather than having to rely on Google Maps. With the patent wars heating up and relationships between smartphone makers weakening, the likelihood of Apple not wanting to rely on their rivals for key technologies is increasing.
Read more

iOS 5 will continue to use Google Maps

From 9to5Google:

With Apple’s purchase of two mapping companies over the last couple of years - Poly9 and Placebase - many have speculated that iOS 5 will finally be the iOS release where Apple moves from a Google Maps backend to an Apple backend. Multiple job postings on Apple’s official site backed up this speculation and even Apple promised some under-the-hood maps tweeks for their next-generation iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch operating system.

Now, sources have told 9to5Google that although Apple is working to improve the iOS Maps application, iOS 5 will not bring an Apple developed maps service and Google Maps is still in. Besides Apple’s purchase of both Placebase and Poly9, some speculated that Apple is building their own maps service to either compete with Google or step away from their input into iOS.

Apple began the process of distancing themselves from Google when former Google CEO Eric Schmidt resigned over “conflict of interest.” Apple has also added Microsoft’s Bing as a Safari search option and will be competing with Google head-to-head with their upcoming cloud-based music service. Those who enjoy Google Maps should not fear iOS 5, though, and hopefully Apple is working to implement turn-by-turn directions or something else to improve their maps application without changing the backend.

Read more