Image: Poly9 FreeEarth screenshot
A cached screenshot of the company Poly9's FreeEarth program, which resembles Google Earth.
By
msnbc.com
updated 7/14/2010 2:25:17 PM ET 2010-07-14T18:25:17

Apple has acquired a second mapping service, Poly9, another sign it is moving away from Google, which provides the popular Google Maps on the iPhone and many other devices.

Poly9 makes 3-D mapping software that produces a program akin to Google Earth, which uses satellite imagery, aerial photography and geographic information systems to create a life-like virtual atlas.

Last summer, Apple purchased PlaceBase, a company that produced the kind of digital maps that are similar to Google Maps, used by so many for street directions. So far, Apple is not commenting on the sale. Poly9, based in Canada, has worked with Apple in the past, as well as Yahoo, NORAD, Microsoft and MSNBC. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

While Apple and Google remain allies in many ways, the two have also become competitors in the past year or so. Last spring, Apple bought Siri, a voice-activated mobile app that may be able to compete with Google voice search on mobile phones.

Google seemingly initiated that competition with its Android operating system for mobile phones, which is now gaining ground at the expense of both the iPhone and other phones.

Google also introduced its own phone, the Google Nexus One, earlier this year, although that has not fared as well as Android devices like the Motorola Droid and HTC Droid Incredible.

Android will also be used in several tablets that manufacturers are planning that will compete with the iPad.

Google's Chrome Web browser also is vying for market share next to Apple's Safari OS, as well as Internet Explorer and Firefox, and Google also followed with creation of the Chrome operating system.

Last summer, Google CEO Eric Schmidt stepped down from Apple's board of directors after being on it for more than three years.

"Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple's core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric's effectiveness as an Apple board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said at the time.

"Therefore, we have mutually decided that now is the right time for Eric to resign his position on Apple's board."

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