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Apple Buys Online Mapping Company Poly9

The deal deepens Apple's commitment to geo-technology and suggests future map-related competition with Google and Microsoft.

Apple has quietly acquired Web mapping company Poly9 Group, Inc., according to a report published by Cyberpresse, a French-Canadian online news site.

Poly9 offered an online 3D globe that companies can place on their Web sites for a fee. Through the service has been discontinued, the Poly9 globe can still be seen on some customers' Web sites, such as the Georgia Aquarium.

The Poly 9 Globe resembles the embeddable version of Google Earth. Because it's built using JavaScript, the company's technology appears to be compatible with Apple's recent evangelism of HTML5.

Apple and Poly9, based in Quebec, Canada, did not respond to requests for confirmation, but the inaccessibility of Poly9's main Web page and the silence of its Twitter feed since March suggest changes for the mapping company.

The Cyberpresse report says that Poly9's main office in Quebec has been closed and all but two of Poly9's employees have moved to California's Silicon Valley area, which is where Apple is located.

The deal marks Apple's second recent geo-centric acquisition. Last July, it acquired online mapping service Placebase.

Media reports have suggested that Apple is upgrading its geo-technology arsenal to do battle with Google and Microsoft, both of which have made major investments in mapping and location-based services.

But Apple would be unlikely to characterize the Poly9 deal as a response to competition. Were it actually to respond to questions about its future plans -- which it seldom does -- it would likely describe the Poly9 acquisition as a way to bring more map-based and place-based functionality to its applications and to its desktop and mobile operating systems.

Apple has been building up its data center capacity to enable it to offer more robust online services and Web applications. Such infrastructure would be well suited for serving an online mapping application based on Poly9's technology.

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