Apple Buys Mapping Firm Poly9

Apple has tons of cash in the bank, and has shown an increasing willingness to spend it to acquire companies like Quattro Wireless and Lala. Now the company has apparently plunked down an unknown amount to acquire Canadian online mapping company Poly9. Neither company has confirmed the deal, but a report at (French) has the company shuttered as of the end of June, with most employees relocated to Apple’s Cupertino campus.

apple buys mapping firm poly9 globe july 2010

Poly9 is probably best known to everyday Internet users for developing the Poly9 Globe, a 3D, flash-based representation on the earth that can have data and mapping information plotted onto it in a manner reminiscent of Google Earth. The same technology has been used by a number of companies—including Apple itself—and Poly9 might be best known for fueling NORAD’s holiday tracking of Santa Claus’s annual trip around the world.

The Poly9 acquisition would mark Apple’s second purchase in the mapping technologies arena; earlier this year, Apple acquired PlaceBase, which developed a mapping API called Pushpin. In what might not be a coincidence, Poly9 has worked with PushPin, although Poly9’s mapping technology also pulled mapping data from a number of other APIs and services.

Apple’s intention with the acquisition is not clear: some speculation has the company gearing up to take on Google Earth and Google Maps; however, it seems more likely that Apple is intend on raising the bar for mobile mapping applications…and, of course, if it can pull wonderful mapping apps out of its hat, they will be exclusive to Apple products like the iPhone and iPad.