Following previous speculation about Apple's mapping plans, The Wall Street Journal said that current and former Apple employees have now confirmed that Apple will drop Google Maps from its iOS mobile operating system in 2012.
Citing people 'familiar with the plans', The Journal feels that Apple's in-house maps service could be unveiled as early as next week, when iOS 6 is expected to be announced at the WWDC developer conference in San Francisco.
The newspaper said that Apple has been "planning to evict Google Maps from the iPhone for years", but accelerated the in-house maps venture after smartphones running Google Android overtook iPhone shipments.
Replacing Google Maps as the pre-loaded app on Apple devices would not prevent users from downloading it, but it would stop Google being the default way Apple customers look up addresses and search for key services.
Speculation that Apple was preparing to launch its own iOS maps service heightened in March after it emerged that iPhoto no longer uses Google Maps.
Announced with the new iPad, Apple's iPhoto app does not use Google Maps to geo-tag images, which 9to5Mac felt was an indicator that Apple was readying its own solution.
Apple's contract to use Google Maps in its mobile devices expires at the end of 2012, and 9to5Mac reported a source at the time as saying that the firm has not entered talks for a renewal.
Apple is also known to have acquired three different mapping companies over the past year, including Swedish firm C3 Technologies, which produces 3D photo-realistic maps of key global locations.
Creating its own service, potentially called 'iMaps', would help Apple reduce its dependency on Google Maps in iOS devices, particularly as Google moves deeper into smartphone production following the acquisition of Motorola Mobility.
But it would also set up a major battle between the two firms over dominance of the lucrative market for local advertising to mobile customers.
According to a report by Opus Research, mobile ads connected with maps or locations accounted for around a quarter of money spent on online ads in 2012, up from just 15% in 2010.
Shelly Palmer, technology consultant and founder of Advanced Media Ventures, told The Independent that "advertising is all about data, and data is all about advertising".
"At the moment, Google is the sole owner of how we navigate the world," she said.
"I don't know whether Apple can compete because Google has put hundreds of thousands of man hours into maps, but if you are ever going to monetise any of your apps, you need as much of the ecosystem as possible. This is about knowing where people are and how they behave."
Alongside a mapping system, Apple's rumoured iOS 6 update is expected to bring various other new innovations, including integration of the Siri voice assistant on newer models of the iPad.
Apple is also thought to be on course to more closely integrate social network Facebook into iOS devices, similarly to the way it does with microblogging site Twitter.
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