Yesterday the Web caught wind  that Apple had bought mapping software startup Placebase in July. Several recent patents filed by Cupertino suggest that the iPhone maker is interested in personal navigation. What do they have planned?
"My immediate thought is Apple is so cash flush they can afford to play around with small money to experiment," says John Canali, a Navigation and Location Opportunity Analyst with Strategy Analytics. But he also notes that Apple has filed patents regarding navigation. The patent pictured below, which became public in March, describes  a detachable iPhone-like car navigation system complete with wireless connectivity.
Another patent, released in July, shows  a communicative vehicle-iPhone navigation that even works when the iPhone is not mounted in the car's dash.
By developing a "geo" team based on Placebase, Apple could be insuring itself in case relations with Google sour (Apple licenses Google maps, which Google licenses from Tele Atlas). But according to other industry sources, Apple could be more interested in leveraging location-aware frameworks for future iPhones. Adding tighter integration of geo-awareness to all of the phone's applications--possibly even a geo-location API for iPhone apps--could allow developers to pull local crime statistics or real-time traffic data into their apps. Combined with in-car integration, location-aware mapping could be a coup--that even Google won't see coming.