The next week is going to be an interesting one for the geospatial industry. It's not every week that the world's most valuable company enters your industry with a fanfare, but next week at its worldwide developer conference, Apple is expected to announce its own mapping application to replace Google Maps as the primary mapping app on iPhones and iPads. This has been anticipated for quite some time, with Apple making a number of geospatial acquisitions over the last couple of years, including Placebase, Poly9 and C3. There was some detailed coverage about a new mapping product in iOS 6 "with incredible 3d mode" from 9 to 5 Mac a few weeks ago. And now there is a flurry of articles from the Wall Street Journal (subscription needed for full article), NPR, and many more.
Of course Google has been the dominant player in mapping applications for the past several years and they're not going to take this lying down. Today they are holding an invitation only event for press in Mountain View on the "next dimension of Google Maps", expected to talk about new 3D features in Google Maps. Ed Parsons of Google tweeted this morning that it will be a "big news day for Google Geo".
This should certainly make life even more interesting in the geospatial industry. Up to this point, Microsoft has been the main challenger to Google in the maps arena. They've occasionally come up with some significant innovation, like their 3D building models that came from the acquisition of Vexcel, but then faded away again, or PhotoSynth which is really cool technology with enormous potential for 3D mapping and augmented reality, but which hasn't yet really transitioned beyond a cool standalone application. But Microsoft has never really seemed to me to quite get its act together well enough on the mapping front to really have a good claim to challenge Google as the industry leader.
I think Apple will mount a much more serious challenge to Google on the consumer mapping front, and I'll write more about what I think they might bring in the next day or two (I think it will have significance in other areas beyond 3D). One thing that will be interesting to see though is how much of a platform for other applications the Apple offering will include. Google Maps of course has a well developed API for building other applications, which Ubisense uses extensively in our myWorld application. Stay tuned for what promises to be an interesting week!
Update: see my follow up posts on the Google announcements and more detailed predictions and questions about Apple Maps.