Apple's purchase of personal assistant app developer Siri marks an intensification of the company's battle with Google, its former ally. Apple's buying spree seems likely to intensify, too, as the company has hired a senior executive to lead its purchases.
Siri creates useful software which uses geo-location and the internet to help users track down locally placed entertainment and services. You can use it to find the best local pub, a taxi to get you there and the local cinema's listings for later on.
All this information is already out there on the web somewhere, but Siri lets you track it all down in one place. Essentially you make your request and Siri's own APIs rapidly explore the web to get you the answers you need.
Make me happy with Apple's App Search
Speaking to SearchEngine Land, John Battelle points out that Siri is "a voice-activated meta-search tool".
He believes Apple intends to use the tool as the basis to create a search solution for apps, speculating that Apple has no plan to take on Google as a web search engine.
Potentially implemented at the iPhone's system level, this new search solution might explore conventional online listings, alongside user recommendations and ratings carried on various social networks in order to deliver its recommendations.
If made available as part of the iPhone OS, then developers might be able to call on Siri to drive search within their applications, giving Apple an instant place in the new App Search landscape.
Location matters. We know the iPhone already has GPS inside and hosts technology from SkyHook Wireless to enable location-sensing on the basis of local Wi-Fi networks. All this leads to Google Maps, right?
Mapping: Join the dots
Don't neglect Apple's under-the-radar 2009 purchase of mapping company Placebase giving Apple a mapping solution that could become a rival to Google Maps, capable of handling more layers of information than rivals Google, Microsoft or Yahoo can handle.
This is a solution for mobile-based augmented reality, the kind of information representation that might boost a location-savvy service search app, like Siri. Take a look at the PolicyMap service for an idea of the level of information Placebase can deliver.
Placebase could also be of potential use to Apple's iAds system, depriving Google of potentially valuable location-based data.
The purchases of music streaming service LaLa.com and Quattro Wireless also illustrate Apple's mobile vision.
Apple is understood to be hoping to develop a music streaming/locker system based on its LaLa purchase, but has issued no concrete statement on its plans at this time. Peter Kafka's MediaMemo suggests labels are resisting overtures at the moment.
Personalised, location-based advertising
Quattro Wireless is a different deal. That property has already been morphed to become Apple's premium-priced mobile advertising network, iAds. What are these? This is Apple's own description of iAds:
"Today, when users click on mobile ads they are almost always taken out of their app to a web browser, which loads the advertiser's web page. Users must then navigate back to their app, and it is often difficult or impossible to return to exactly where they left. iAd solves this problem by displaying full-screen video and interactive ad content without ever leaving the app, and letting users return to their app anytime they choose."
Apple is understood to be asking premium prices for advertising space via the iAds platform. The Wall Street Journal last week reported that marketers are being asked for £600,000 or more for advert placements.
Add to shopping basket
Apple's late-2009 purchase of Quattro Wireless was led by recent recruit - and former Goldman Sachs banker and merger and acquisitions specialist - Adrian Perica. He was bought into the frame as Apple had hoped to purchase AdMob, but was beaten to the punch by Google.
That Apple has hired a merger and acquisitions specialist hints the company continues to shop for new expertise and technologies to secure its place in the rapidly evolving mobile markets.
The question for you, the reader, is what or whom do you think Apple is likely to invest in next?