Apple, Google and Microsoft are expected to be the dominant providers of mapping servicesfor indoor spaces.
A July 14 report from IMS Research expects that the mobile giants, already tussling over city views, will next set their sights on indoor spaces like airports and shopping malls. By 2016, IMS expects nearly 120,000 indoor venue maps to be available to consumers.
During Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote address June 11, the iPhone maker introduced, as expected, a proprietary mapping solution, enabling it to end its partnership with Google, whose Maps app is said to be the second most-used app by iOS devices after iTunes.
"The announcement of Apple providing its own mapping solution comes as no surprise, with rumors of this circulating for some time, as a result of the firm's previous acquisitions in the area," wrote Alex West, an IMS research director.
In addition to striking a deal with TomTom, Apple acquired Placebase, Poly9 and C3 Technologies.
"Apple has been trying to wean itself off of its dependence on Google," West continued. "The release of Siri with the iPhone 4S represented a different way to search the Internet, bypassing Google entirely, and its recent iPhone application utilized OpenStreetMap data."
Indoor mapping, IMS believes, could represent the next area where Apple and Google will work to out-compete the other.
In December 2010, Microsoft's Bing Maps began including mapping information for malls and airports, and Google Maps added the same in November 2011.
"When youre inside an airport, shopping mall or retail store, a common way to figure out where you are is to look for a freestanding map directory or ask an employee for help," Google vice president of Engineering Brian McClendon wrote in a Nov. 29 blog post. "Starting today, with the release of Google Maps 6.0 for Android, that directory is brought to the palm of your hands, helping you determine where you are, what floor you're on, and where to go indoors."
When a user hovers the blue dot over a location, Google went on to explain, detailed floor plans automatically appear. At the time, it said it had partnered with some of the largest airports, retailers and transit stations in the United States and Japan, including Mall of America, IKEA, Macy's and Chicago O'Hare and Narita International airports, among others.
IMS notes that Micello, Aisle 411 and Pointe Inside all have "significant" indoor map databases, with Micello being the market leader by far.
With "advertising revenue generation potential offered through indoor positioning and the impending improvements to indoor location technology on the horizon," according to IMS, Micello and the others seem ripe for acquisition.
At WWDC, Apple and TomTom announced still more turf they're looking to take over: the car. While Microsoft has deals with Ford and Kia, Apple announced that Land Rover/Jaguar, BMW, GM, Mercedes, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda will all integrate Siri-like buttons into the dashboards or steering wheels of their vehicles within a year.