updated 02:35 pm EDT, Sat October 29, 2011
Apple C3 deal may show deeper maps focus
An as yet unconfirmed claim has pointed to Apple being the mystery buyer of C3 Technologies. The firm is reportedly still working out of its Swedish office and is informally known as Sputnik, 9to5 heard. CEO Mattias Astrom, CFO Jkell Cederstrand, and lead product manager Ludvig Emgard are all still said to be working, although it's not clear if anyone was let go.
The company's key technology is one derived from publicized military techniques for automatically generating 3D maps. The approach, which gets elevation from photography, lets it quickly render maps with 3D buildings, terrain, and other significant landmarks while still folding them into regular 2D imagery.
Similar to what Apple accomplished with Siri, the goal is likely to be to not just come up to par with Google in mobile apps but to try to leapfrog its work. Google already has 3D maps on the desktop and in Android, but its method currently limits those maps to key areas, usually just a selection of major cities, and have considerably less detail. C3's automation could help Apple catch up and possibly offer 3D maps in more areas, though not necessarily for the entire world.
Apple has been leaving multiple clues that it's planning a major overhaul of its iOS map tool. It bought PlaceBase for what could bring more informative map layers. Investments already exist in 3D mapping through the acquisition of Poly9.
The company hasn't shown any signs of dropping Google Maps as its foundation, but C3 and other deals point to it at least building significantly on its existing strategy. Apple has been hiring for its iOS map team in recent months and could produce results in the near future.