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Poly9 reportedly snatched up by Apple. Is a Google Maps competitor on the way?

Poly9, a digital mapping company based in Canada, has been purchased by Apple, according to several sources. Could Poly9 be a new weapon in the ongoing arms race between Apple and Google?

By Matthew Shaer / July 14, 2010

Poly9 has apparently been purchased by Apple. The mapping company, which has worked in the past with Microsoft and MSNBC, would help Apple compete directly with Google.

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Poly9, a Canadian mapping company that has worked with Microsoft, MSNBC, and Yahoo, has been purchased by Apple, according to a news brief posted to the French-Canadian tech blog CyberPresse. The blog alleges that many Poly9 workers have already been moved by Apple to California, where Apple is based. If the report is accurate, it could give Apple a leg up in its ongoing cold war with search giant Google.

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Apple and Google have clashed repeatedly in recent months, as Google has expanded further into territory traditionally dominated by Apple. The Nexus One smartphone, for instance, while not exactly an out-of-the-ballpark smash hit, is seen by some analysts as detracting from iPhone sales.

Furthermore, Google has continued to position its Android operating system and Android Marketplace as the open-source answer to Apple iTunes and the online Apple Store.

"The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet’s future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what," recent Google hire Tim Bray wrote in March. "It’s a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord’s pleasure and fear his anger. I hate it."

Poly9 would let Apple compete directly against Google in one very important arena: Digital mapping. The iPhone currently comes preloaded with Google Maps, the Google technology launched in 2005. But with Poly9 technology, Apple could develop its own in-house mapping software – and more importantly, it could decrease its dependence on its potential rivals over in Mountain View.

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