As you may have seen by now there were some new iOS screenshots showing maps that don’t look like they are from Google. Below are a couple of the shots in question (via 512Pixels and The Next Web). See update below regarding OpenStreetMap.
There was also the discovery of code that suggested these maps were being generated by Apple internally. We reached out to Google for a comment but didn’t receive any sort of statement. John Gruber has apparently been given an answer by his sources about what’s going on:
Gruber says, “What I’m hearing now is that Places still uses Google Maps, but the maps in Journals and slideshows are not using Google Maps, and are Apple’s own stuff.”
We’ve been waiting for well over a year to see where and how Apple deploys its own mapping assets. Since 2009 Apple has made several significant mapping-related acquisitions:
Other “circumstantial evidence” such as off-hand comments by Steve Jobs before he died and job postings suggested that Apple would offer its own mapping and navigation products in the not-too-distant future:
The iPhone has revolutionized the mobile industry and has changed people’s lives and we want to continue to do so. We want to take Maps to the next level, rethink how users use Maps and change the way people find things. We want to do this in a seamless, highly interactive and enjoyable way. We’ve only just started.
Google’s mapping expertise and capabilities are still well ahead of Apple’s. Apple could always buy another company, such as TeleNav or deCarta, and gain considerable additional mapping tools, expertise and assets. This is just my speculation, however.
Apple doesn’t want to disrupt its users’ expectations and experience by introducing a half-baked mapping product. Accordingly, what appears to be happening here is a “toe in the water” approach, as Apple begins to replace Google Maps in select cases — perhaps to ease its users into seeing a product with a new look and feel. But it does appear to be the start of a migration to another mapping platform.
If we hear anything more, we’ll update this post.
Postscript: The mapping platform that Apple is using is OpenStreetMap (outside the US only apparently), with Apple’s own map tiles, according to OpenStreetMap’s post:
Yesterday Apple launched iPhoto, its photo management app, for the iPad and iPhone… and we’re rather pleased to find they’re the latest to switch to OpenStreetMap.
The desktop version of iPhoto, and indeed all of Apple’s iOS apps until now, use Google Maps. The new iPhoto for iOS, however, uses Apple’s own map tiles – made from OpenStreetMap data (outside the US).
Recently Foursquare stopped using Google Maps in favor of OpenSteetMap data. We asked: was it the beginning of a trend? It would appear so.
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