Apple is putting a team together for what look like the development of an in-house iOS GPS navigation package, according to some job postings the company recently put up.
The calls for iOS software engineers are looking for coders with “experience developing navigation software” and a “deep knowledge of Computational Geometry or Graph Theory”. Routing problems are a subset of graph theory, so these are just the sorts of backgrounds you’d want in a team designing mapping software from the ground up.
If Apple does manage to complete its own full-featured navigation software, one more advanced than the Maps app, that’s very bad news for companies like Navigon and TomTom, with their commercial iOS navigation packages. It’s likely that any Apple navigation app would be free, making it very hard to swallow a $50 price tag. The other players could always try to outdo Apple, but without the same kinds of resources at their disposal, it’s unlikely they’d be able to offer a product able to demand such a premium price.
This also spells bad news for the hardware GPS navigator market, as someone who has a smartphone and access to powerful navigation software is unlikely to also be shopping for a stand-alone unit. This isn’t just specific to Apple’s plans, but is a consequence of widespread smartphone adoption in general. At least these devices can offer benefits like larger screens and much lower prices than Apple hardware, so there will still be a market for them.
Apple also mentions that it’s looking for engineers with experience writing for servers and working with distributed systems. That could mean several things, among them that a could of iOS users could self-report traffic conditions back to Apple, for real-time road condition updates to be widely distributed. We’ll just have to wait and see what Apple comes up with to know for sure.