The days of Google Maps as the default mapping app on the iPhone may be coming to an end. Apple is beefing up its Geo team, reportedly acquiring Canadian 3D mapping startup Poly9 Group. The company was funded in 2005 and was completely bootstrapped, with no venture money. Its employees have now gone quiet. Its corporate Website is down and nobody answers the phones.
Poly9 made a browser-based 3D globe like Google Earth, which powered apps such as the NORAD Santa Tracker and this Skype Nomad blog. You can still see it on this product page for Poly9 Globe. It is a lightweight, browser-based, spinning globe that only takes up 303kb of memory—perfect for an iPhone.
So far Apple and Poly9 have not confirmed the acquisition, but French-Canadian reporter Pierre Couture of cyberpresse.ca (via Google Translate) reports that all but two of the employees are now relocated in Silicon Valley and that they are zipped up due to non-disclosure agreements.
This wouldn’t be the first mapping app to be acquired by Apple. Last September, it bought Placebase, another mapping startup, which adds layers of data on top of maps. It is hard to speculate what Apple’s Geo team is brewing. Most likely these were more acqhires where the talent was being bought more so than the underlying products. What do you think Apple Earth will look like?