Is This Apple's New Map? (It Doesn't Look Like Google's)
Updated 8/3/12 at 12.20 GMT
Judging by comments to this blog post, on Twitter and on Google Plus, the consensus seems to be that yes, Apple is using OSM data from 2010 outside of the US; inside of the US it's (probably) TIGER data and no, there doesn't seem to be attribution and Apple may well be getting a communiqué from OSM to that effect. Other sources of information on this include * The iPhoto for iOS Not Using Google Maps thread on the OSM-Talk mailing list * Iván Sánchez Ortega has put up a nice map comparison between OSM and iPhoto's map tiles. * There's also another comparison between Apple's, OSM's and Google's map tiles. * Jonas. K has put up a blog post which comes right out and says that iPhoto is using OSM and other public domain mapping sources. * Finally, as a nice touch, this post seems to have made it into OSM Community Blogs.
... and now, back to the original post.
We live in a world dominated by and surrounded by brands. One of the hallmarks of a successful brand is whether it's able to be immediately recognised as that brand, without necessarily looking too deeply for a brand label. Look at a car and you'll probably be able to tell whether it's a Ford or not. Look at a laptop and you'll probably be able to tell whether it's Apple's or one of those faceless, grey, consumer models. Look at an espresso cup and you'll probably be able to tell whether it's got coffee from Illy in it.
As it is in the real, offline world, so it is in the digital, online world and nowhere is this more prevalent than in the world of digital maps. Each mapping provider has an immediately recognisable look, feel and style to it. You can tell whether the map is from Nokia or NAVTEQ, from Google, from Mapquest or from OpenStreetMap. Now granted, a digital map is the product of lots of data sources but the map's style is unique; although OpenStreetMap's style is almost the exception as there's several styles you can use.
Ever since the launch of the original iPhone, for Apple that look and feel of their maps have been Google's. Even before you look to the bottom right hand corner of the map and see the Google logo you'll know it's a Google map. There's also been lots of rumours that with Apple's acquisitions in the mapping space, C3 and Placebase to name but a few, it wouldn't be too long before Apple had their own map.
Maybe that time has now come, for iPhoto on iOS at least. Take a look at the screen grabs above. These maps aren't, at least at face value, Google's. The map style isn't Google's and even more interestingly, there's no immediately apparent copyright or brand notice anywhere on the map. Is this Apple's new map or is it another map provider's under a license that doesn't need branding?