Mapping in Color – a missed opportunity?

# ColourApple has reportedly bought 20 engineers from the Color Labs, creators of the now seemingly dead photo and video application Color, but not the technology or intellectual property. (Update below)

The application itself may have failed to catch on but it did achieved two things:

  • It influenced subsequent offerings.
    I can't help but look at Party Mode in Google+ and think of Color. Party Mode offers essentially what Color was originally all about: collating photos from different people for the same place or event. Admittedly, Party Mode only uses people who were invited to that event but the idea is the same
  • As I wrote previously, it kick started the discussion about implicit social networks, getting away from the strict adherence to the following model and emphasising the idea that we can connect with others based on context and not a fixed list of "friends"

A bigger opportunity?

The original rumour stated that Apple had purchased the entire company but this has since been downgraded to just the talent acquisition. Is this a missed opportunity?

Since the release of iOS6, Apple has come under fire for the disappointing quality and accuracy of its Maps application - a situation the company is trying hard to resolve but there is need of better data. Having no access to Google Street View in particular is prompting some not to upgrade their firmware.

As I have mentioned before, the data engine behind Maps seems like becoming a driving force in the interaction of iDevices and the cloud and a logical conclusion would be that Apple is building its own "knowledge graph" so that future iterations of Siri could potentially rival the functionality offered by Google Now.

iOS6 introduced shared photo streams and my immediate reaction to the initial acquisition rumour was that we could have seen the technology behind Color being used to publicly share photos based on context and location. This shared stream (optional, of course) could then be used to provide crowd-sourced images of locations and tourist attractions within the Maps application to partially offset the loss of Street View.

Build once

While Apple could use the knowledge and experience of these engineers to build something new from the ground up it might have made more sense to also purchase the technology behind Color to avoid reinventing the wheel.

Update: reports now indicate that, along with the 20 engineers, Color actually transferred "key assets" (including intellectual property) to Apple so perhaps the ideas above might still be a possibility.

Image by Ms. Pheonix