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Anyone who uses an iPhone or an iPad with 3G and GPS capabilities will tell you that much of the functionality that you get from some of the best apps for these devices come from geolocation and mapping services. However, at the moment Apple currently depends on Google Maps, Google Earth, and Google’s GeoEye-1 satellite to provide this data.
With the strained and cantankerous relationship that Apple and Steve Jobs has now put itself in with Google, it would behoove them to become as independent as possible when it comes to the key services that it needs to offer the core functionality that makes “The Apps for That” actually work.
That includes not only Search capabilities — which it should probably consider building its own engine or perhaps partnering with — GASP! — Microsoft and its Bing! service, but Apple should also consider launching its very own mapping satellite in partnership with one of the major geospatial companies, such as GeoEye, DigitalGlobe and Spot Image, and a major Aerospace company such as Orbital Sciences, Boeing Space and Intelligence or Lockheed-Martin Space Systems.
What does it cost to launch and operate one of these things?
Well, a lot of money. In fact it costs so much that the US government actually financed about half the cost of GeoEye-1, which was over $500 Million in 2008, so Google only gets to use it partially. Apple actually has enough cash that it could easily launch its very own bird and form its own geospatial services firm if it wanted.
It should also be noted that the GeoEye company (GEOY) that provides the mapping services in partnership with Google and the United States government currently has a market capitalization of about $486M right now (about half of what the company was worth two years ago) so the company might not be a bad acquisition target for Apple either.
The iSat-1. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?