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Apple job listing hints of iPhone-Google divorce

Wanted: map-meister extraordinaire

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Apple is advertising for a software engineer to help take its iPhone Maps app to "the next level" - and perhaps to help Cupertino gain independence from its latest smartphone competitor, Google.

Two identical job postings - one filed in mid-October and another last week (and spotted by MacRumors) - seek an engineer for the "iPhone and iPod touch Maps team" working on the Maps app, the iPhone's MapKit framework, and the problematic Compass app.

The MapKit framework, part of the iPhone 3.0 SDK, allows developers to embed maps into their apps, annotate them, and use map coordinates to provide location-specific information.

Unfortunately, MapKit and the Map app currently rely on Google to provide the required map data. And now that Google is moving firmly into the smartphone market - whether by merely supplying the Android operating system to third-part manufacturers or creating their own Googlephone - Apple's dependence on Mountain View's mapping largess must make Jobs & Co. feel a wee bit insecure.

The first hints of this discomfiture surfaced early last month, when word leaked out that Apple had purchased mapping-software developer Placebase in July and added that company's founder Jaron Waldman to its "Geo Team."

Also, Apple can't be too happy that Google has developed a free satnav app for the Android platform, while iPhone and iPod touch users who want feature-rich turn-by-turn navigation must turn to pricey third-party systems such as TomTom's offerings.

So now Apple is seeking an engineer to help the company "rethink how users use Maps and change the way people find things." Perhaps, also, to substitute the services used to create the maps needed to find those things to ones not supplied by Google.

Conjecture, to be sure - but as Steve Jobs has said in the past, Apple believes that the path to success requires that Cupertino control "the whole widget." And that independence can't be achieved if Google supplies the all-important mapping services needed to support Apple's increasingly location-aware mobile strategy. ®

Bootnote

The job postings were on Apple's employment website as of Monday morning - it remains to be seen if now that they've gained notoriety they'll be pulled as was a job posting for a 3G engineer in May.

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