Apple’s on a buying spree: close on the heels of acquiring Locationary, an analytics firm with a strong interest in location data, the company has reportedly purchased navigation Website HopStop for an undisclosed sum.
Bloomberg newswire first reported the news, which was confirmed by AllThingsD. Terms of the sale went undisclosed, and it seems as if Apple’s doing its best to keep details under wraps. HopStop’s strength lies in its ability to navigate people from Point A to B via public transit, foot, or bicycle. That could benefit Apple in its quest to bulk out its Maps app, which lags behind Google in accuracy and features.
By purchasing Locationary (a move that was also confirmed by AllThingsD), Apple gained a cloud-based platform named Saturn that allows businesses to blend data from multiple sources into a composite profile that can be shared with others. In theory, Saturn facilitates the bringing-together of internal and external data sources onto one platform, which can lower the costs and errors of data integration; it could be used to make maps more accurate, by narrowing down business locations and weeding out any duplicates and outdated data.
Once upon a time, Apple used Google-generated data for its mapping app. With the release of iOS 6 in September 2012, however, Apple opted to power the app with its own homegrown mapping data—but the early version of the software came with inaccurate directions and geographical weirdness such as missing landmarks and melting bridges.
Apple rushed to fix the issue, with CEO Tim Cook even offering 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 at the time. “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.”
Cook recommended that iOS users download mapping apps such as MapQuest or Google until Apple could get its Maps situation together. But now Apple needs to bring back the users who might have drifted to those other apps—an effort that’ll take more than simply buying up a bunch of mapping-and-navigation firms and integrating their offerings into the iOS Maps platform. At some point in the near future, Apple will need to show in a very public way that its Maps app is “fixed” or “better.”