Apple, looking to improve its Maps application, has purchased Silicon Valley start-up company Embark for an undisclosed amount. The company was founded two years ago and builds apps for the iOS and Android platforms that deal with public transit. Several Embark team members will be immediately integrated with the Apple Maps team.
Apple originally passed on offering public transit information when it launched Apple Maps last year. The failed launch of the application led to an apology from Apple CEO Tim Cook and the departure of iOS chief Scott Forstall who refused to take the hit for Apple Maps. That in turn led to new responsibilities for Jony Ive, including the re-designing of the iOS UI which will debut on iOS 7. Apple Maps launched with incorrect directions, benchmarks were labeled with the wrong name, and in the Australian Outback users could have fallen victim to an incorrectly named area of the country and ended up in a dire situation.
Google Maps already includes public transit information for users, which gives Apple an incentive to offer such information itself. Embark’s apps had over 500,000 users back in November when it disclosed the number during a financing transaction. The apps, offering information in major cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, are still available for iOS users to download while the Android flavored apps do not appear to be listed in the Google Play Store any longer.
Apple has confirmed the transaction. “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” said a Cupertino spokesman. Meanwhile, Google has improved Google Maps by purchasing crowd-sourced navigation app Waze and has started to integrate some features of Waze into its mapping application.