Apple has acquired Canadian mapping specialist Poly9, which may provide the internal expertise to replace the Google software the company currently uses.
Earlier in the year Apple had also bought Placebase, a company which was developing geolocation-based services similar to Google Maps. Poly9's software is more like Google Earth than Google Maps but the acquisition spree has delivered a broad set of expertise in the development of mapping, navigation and geological software.
With the increasing levels of competition seen between Apple and Google, analysts have suggested that the acquisitions are the first step in development of software to replace Google Maps which currently forms the default mapping application on Apple devices.
This also means it's an avenue to deliver advertising content which Apple will likely prefer to control directly. Particularly in light of the bidding war the companies had engaged in for mobile advert vendor AdMob, which ultimately went to Google. There's ongoing speculation that Apple's policies may force AdMob out from the iPhone platform.
Canadian news website Cyberpress.ca reported that the Poly9 staff have already relocated to Apple HQ.