Could Apple Be Planning A New Navigation Tool?

Apple could use its new $1.7 billion North Carolina data center to launch a voice interface and navigation service for iOS devices, according to a research note.

Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst with Bernstein, has offered suggestions about feasible uses for Apple's new 500,000 square foot data center expected to go live in spring.

Sacconaghi suggested several new services that Apple could offer, like a low cost iTunes streaming subscription service, a low cost video streaming service like Netflix and most intriguingly, its own navigation service, which could provide serious competition to Google Maps and the search giant's other free navigation tools.

The acquisitions by Apple in the past few years of PlaceBase, a mapping company, and Siri, which has expertise in voice recognition, add substance to the theory.

“Apple could offer its own navigation service comparable to Google’s free and very popular voice-based navigation system on Android. The iOS device user-base could then potentially periodically upload anonymous information on routes travelled and speeds encountered, perhaps even in real-time, which would allow Apple to report back traffic conditions to its user-base,” the analyst said in his note.

For now, Apple's acting CEO Tim Cook has confirmed that the new data center, which should be operational this spring, will be used for Apple's iTunes and MobileMe services. Apple is expected to bring cloud based media storage and syncing enhancements to MobileMe.