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Report: Apple Buys Mapping Firm, Notes App

Report: Apple Buys Mapping Firm, Notes App
December 24, 2013 9:59AM

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With the acquisition of BroadMap, Apple continues to plug holes and improve or extend its mapping capabilities. Apple will probably make more mapping-related buys in the future. Apple's acquisition of note-taking app, Catch, is somewhat more curious, but maybe it will use the tech to improve Its own existing Notes app, said analyst Greg Sterling.

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Apple has reportedly bought yet another mapping company, and an Evernote competitor to boot. News outlets are reporting that the iPhone maker has grabbed BroadMap and Catch.

BroadMap provides government, non-profit and commercial business partners with custom-fit geographic information system (GIS) solutions. By matching the demand for GIS solutions with an agile business model, BroadMap has seen healthy growth in its space. The firm promises to provide solutions to even the toughest GIS and location challenges.

Formerly known as Snaptic, Catch.com has been popular with Android-powered smartphones and tablets, seeing millions of downloads. Catch.com produces Catch Notes, AK Notepad and Compass. The mobile apps also run on iOS and the Web.

Apple's Mapping Plans

Apple continues grabbing mapping companies as it struggles to get Apple Maps on par with Google Maps in the wake of an embarrassing debut and plenty of consumer backlash.

In July, the iPhone maker acquired Locationary for an undisclosed amount as part of the fix. Over the last few years, Apple has acquired several companies to beef up its maps software, including Poly9, C3 Technologies and Placebase but so far mapping parity with Google has eluded the tech giant.

For an analysis of the latest Apple acquisition, we turned to Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. He told us one acquisition seems like a natural progression of its work on Apple Maps while the other is more of an outlier.

“With BroadMap Apple continues to plug holes and improve or extend its mapping capabilities. I'm sure there will still be more mapping-related acquisitions to come,” he told us.

“Catch is somewhat more curious unless Apple is simply using the technology and employees to improve Its own existing Notes app or create a new more expansive list-making tool, integrated with the OS. There are some other things that Apple might be able to do with Catch around location and social data, which are intriguing to contemplate as well,” Sterling added.

Apple’s Mapping Missteps

When Apple bought Placebase in 2009, rumors started percolating that the company would replace Google Maps on the iPhone. But when Apple Maps debuted as part of iOS 6 about three years later, it fell into the product launch disaster category. In fact, it was so embarrassing for the company that it led to an executive shakeup.

The Wall Street Journal reported drama around Scott Forstall, the former iOS chief, in Oct. 2013. The Journal said Apple CEO Tim Cook wanted Forstall to sign an official apology letter to customers for the poor navigation and quality of Apple Maps and he refused.

"The buggy and poor-performing Maps app, which displaced Google Maps as part of the iOS 6 launch, has been a black eye for Apple," Mark Moskowitz, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a research report. Forstall left Apple in the Oct. 2012 shakeup. It was Cook who worked to clean up the mess.

"We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better," Cook wrote in his apology letter to consumers last year. Only time will tell if the Locationary acquisition will help Apple solve its mapping problems.

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