Apple executives are reportedly mulling whether to acquire Waze, a builder of fully featured mapping apps. According to TechCrunch, which drew its latest information from unnamed sources close to the negotiations, the two companies have reached the point of haggling over selling price. (Waze supposedly wants $750 million, while Apple is holding a line well south of that.)
As with so many other popular apps, Waze draws much of its strength from crowd-sourcing, with an active community editing maps and offering the latest updates on traffic and hazards. On its corporate blog, Waze argues that crowd-sourced map editing translates into faster problem resolution.
If Apple were to acquire Waze, however, it’s questionable whether that “wisdom of crowds” aspect would survive. Apple isn’t known for buying up startups and letting them run as subsidiaries; instead, it tends to absorb newly purchased assets and people into its core businesses, with the startup’s products often reappearing as Apple-branded features at some future date. Nor is Apple a company that relies overmuch on an open user community, instead preferring to handle problems (and update features) with its internal resources.
However, Waze has managed to amass quite a store of mapping data, which Apple needs for its Maps app. Previous to iOS 6, Apple relied on Google-generated data for that mapping app; it subsequently abandoned that relationship, however, in favor of using its homegrown data—and there its troubles began. Within hours of iOS 6 reaching iPhones and iPads, users began complaining long and loud about inaccurate directions and graphical weirdness in the revamped Maps app.
That criticism reached the point where Apple CEO Tim Cook had to post an apology on the company’s Website. “At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers,” he wrote. “With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.”
In the months since, Apple has reverted to damage-control mode. Last month, The Wall Street Journal suggested that the company was in talks with Foursquare Labs over possibly injecting more maps data into iOS. In his apology letter, Cook also suggested that frustrated iOS users could rely on alternate maps apps—including Waze.