Apple's Out to Kick Google's Maps With Foursquare (Update2)

(Updated from 10:44 a.m. EST to provide comments from Facebook spokeswoman Elisabeth Diana in the seventh paragraph.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When Apple ( AAPL) released its Maps app as part of iOS 6, it was a direct shot at Google ( GOOG). But due to the poor product, it never stood a chance. Now, though, it looks like it may actually have a shot.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is in early talks with Foursquare, the location-sharing app, about a deal to integrate data from Foursquare into Apple's mapping app.

TheStreet's Eric Jackson noted that Apple executive Eddy Cue was using Foursquare's service. Jackson was paying attention to tweets from Cue, who doesn't tweet often. Cue, who took over Apple's Siri and Maps as part of a management shakeup, was in California one day, then New York the next, leading Jackson to speculate that something was up with regard to Apple and Foursquare.

When it comes to maps, Google is the 800-pound gorilla in the room because of its widespread use, accurate directions, and vast amounts of useful information and data. Apple had hoped to achieve a similar status with its Apple Maps, but a slew of criticism and mistakes caused Apple to issue an apology, while it works on bettering the application.

Google Maps has had the benefit of years of usage, data and information to make it the product it is today. Apple doesn't have the luxury of time, so joint ventures are a good way to compete. By entering more ventures and partnerships ( Urbanspoon, HopStop, perhaps), Apple will be able to better accumulate the data it needs.

Apple has integrated information from Yelp ( YELP) and Open Table ( OPEN) into Apple Maps. By adding Foursquare's local data, it will give Apple more ammunition as it seeks to provide the best mapping tool.

Local data is becoming increasingly important as consumers seek to focus on that which is most useful to them. Facebook ( FB) announced a feature called Nearby, similar to what Yelp, OpenTable and others offer, as users search for local places. Elisabeth Diana, a Facebook spokeswoman, described the service as a way to actively look for places. "It's a way to search for things nearby based on filters of your friends," she said in an interview. "We believe the best recommendations come from your friends, and that's especially true with local recommendations."

Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia believes the feature could benefit Facebook in the long term, eventually helping monetize mobile. It should "incentivize local merchants to update their pages on Facebook, which should help increase engagement," Bhatia wrote in a research report. He also noted that it will enable Facebook to capture more market share in local advertising, as well as a bigger piece of the local e-commerce market. He rates Facebook "buy" with a $32 price target.

CEO Tim Cook issued an apology about Apple Maps, and the fiasco ultimately led to the ouster of executive Scott Forstall, who reportedly refused to sign the apology letter to Apple customers.

Consumers enjoy using Foursquare, checking into their favorite places, getting recommendations, writing small reviews and potentially earning rewards. But Foursquare has not been able to generate much revenue. A potential deal with Apple could change that, while helping Apple grab the data and information it so desperately needs to make Apple Maps a much improved product.

Surpassing Google Maps won't be easy for Apple, but it sure won't be for lack of trying.

"Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard," Cook wrote in the apology.

You can be sure these kinds of deals are just the first step in that process.

Apple could not be immediately reached for comment for this story.

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-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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