There’s of speculation (and many conspiracy theories) about Apple’s purchase of a small mapping company Placebase earlier this year. Placebase had a product called Pushpin, which was a competitor to Google Maps essentially. Pushpin still exists; the product is now being operated by Urban Mapping.
Former Placebase CEO Jaron Waldman is now at Apple, with most of his team — on the “geo team.” I spoke to Waldman at some length a week ago at the Metaplaces event and have known him casually for awhile. Wisely he wouldn’t talk extensively about what he’s doing except to say that he liked being at Apple and that it was a really interesting place.
It’s pretty clear that Apple values geo/location/maps. It’s also clear that Apple considers Google a competitor. So there’s logic behind some of the conspiracy theorists’ statements that Apple may be gearing up at some point to replace Google Maps or have its own proprietary offering. But the geo team, I’ll wager, is about much more than simply maps and Apple already has some patents in the area, which they’re probably working on building out.