Geo Week News

November 17, 2011

Why Apple paid so much for C3

I first blogged about C3 Technologies back in April, when Ovi Maps, Nokia’s answer to Google Maps, made a splash. Quite simply, the 3D models they can make of cities are remarkable. They rapidly render over the Internet, make your browser into a way to virtually tour some of the world’s most beautiful sites, and completely blow Google StreetView out of the water. 

Then, after rumors swirled all summer, 9 to 5 Mac broke a couple weeks back the story that Apple had bought C3:

Sources say that C3 Technologies CEO Mattias Astrom, C3 Technologies CFO Kjell Cederstrand, and lead C3 Technologies Product Manager Ludvig Emgard are now working within Apple’s iOS division. The leading trio, along with most of the former C3 Technologies team, is still working as a team in Sweden (interestingly, the division is now called “Sputnik”), where the C3 Technologies company was located prior to the Apple acquisition. 

9 to 5 has all sorts of theories (really, click through and cruise through the many videos they post – it’s well done) about why Apple would make such a purchase – they want to disassociate themselves from Google, crowd-sourcing traffic data and making it 3D, etc. – but does that really explain a $267 million purchase? Really, how many more iPhones and iPads are going to be sold because the maps apps has some 3D gimcrackery? Is anyone really that dissatisfied with the current Maps app? Works pretty good if you ask me.

(First, a note on that valuation: If you look at Saab’s most recent filing, you can see they talk about the sale of c3 on page 6. They owned 57.8 percent of the company, and sold that portion for SEK 1,007,000,000. That’s MSEK 1,007, which translates to 147,892,314.81 (to be precise). Which gives me a total sale price of $256 million, personally, but that’s today’s dollars. Maybe the exchange rate was different on the day the article linked above was published. Whatever. It’s a quarter billion dollars any way you slice it.)

I don’t think you pay that kind of money for map apps. Rather, I think Apple has a history of being intrigued by 3D data capture, maybe even sees what’s going on with the Kinect and Autodesk’s Photofly (I mean 123D Catch) in the consumer space, and wants a piece of the action. What exactly is that action? I don’t think anyone’s sure yet, but it would seem that Apple has a quarter-billion-plan in the hatching. 

As it gets easier and easier to process and work with 3D data, what are the everyday applications we’re not seeing yet? What’s the problem you had today that would have been solved faster had you had 3D data available to you? 

There’s some talk of us rearranging our cubes here in the SPAR offices. How much more interesting would the planning for that be if we could rearrange our space in 3D and look virtually at the people whose heads we’d be staring at the back of?

Something to ponder over the Thanksgiving holiday, that’s for sure.

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