Apple quietly buys online mapping company Placebase

Apple appears to be up to something. The company very quietly purchased Placebase - an online mapping startup - back in July. It was announced in a tweet, but labelled as "all hush hush" by Fred Lalonde, the founder of openplaces.org.

However, Seth Weintraub of Computer World noticed that the founder of Placebase is now listed as a member of the "Geo Team" at Apple, on his LinkedIn profile. The company's website, placebase.com, is now offline too.

The web is buzzing with bloggers wondering what this could mean. Is Apple's widening gulf with Google expanding further? Google helped Apple develop its maps iPhone application in the first place, as well as providing the mapping in the backend.

More recently, though, Google launched a rival smartphone OS, as well as a desktop OS, and Apple also refused to allow Google to introduce its Latitude location-tracking app onto the iPhone, meaning Google had to create a web version of the app. Could this be the first steps of Apple going off on its own?

Or perhaps Apple just wants to introduce a mapping API in Cocoa that'll let developers do more with geolocation. Maybe it's no more complicated than Apple recruiting people with expertise in mapping with an eye on future projects.

Share your thoughts in the comments.