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Apple quietly bought another mapping technology company, Los Angeles-based Placebase last July. ((Paul Sakuma/Associated Press))

The internet has been set abuzz by a report that Apple has acquired Poly9 Group Inc., a Quebec City-based mapping software firm.

Neither Poly9 nor Apple has publicly commented since the acquisition was first reported by the Quebec City-based newspaper Le Soleil Wednesday.

However, technology watchers noted that it was Apple's second mapping firm acquisition in a year. The Cupertino, Calif., company quietly bought Los Angeles-based Placebase, which made commercial mapping software called Pushpin, last July.

Poly9's reported purchase quickly fuelled a rash of headlines like "Here comes Apple Earth" and "Apple just bought their own Google Earth" on technology websites such as TechCrunch.com and Gizmodo.com.

Poly9 made software to produce online and offline maps, including a 3D mapping tool similar to Google Earth and Mapspread, which allows users to build custom maps from layers of spreadsheet data.

MSNBC, NORAD were clients

While its company website hadn't been accessible since before July 9, its archived site lists past projects including the North American Aerospace Defense Command ( NORAD)'s Santa Tracker, the integration of news from MSNBC onto Microsoft's Virtual Earth, and a map that shows real-time information about traffic and public transportation services for the Transportation Management Association of San Francisco.

The company also made a product called Polyvox for web-based voice applications and services such as one that provided driving directions by phone.

Le Soleil reported that a transaction between Apple and Poly9 had taken place "recently," the company's main offices on Saint-Joseph Street had been closed for several weeks, and all but two employees had been transferred to Apple's headquarters in California's Silicon Valley.

A man who answered a phone number that used to be listed as Poly9's on the company's archived website told CBC News Thursday that he could not comment on the situation. He identified himself as a former employee, but said he could provide no further information.

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, neither the company's founder and chief technology officer Denis Laprise nor its former CEO Greg Sadetsky had responded to emails from CBC News.

No confirmation or denial from Apple

Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said she could not confirm or deny the purchase.

"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not comment on our purpose or plan."

Daniel Tessier, president of the Geomatics Industry Association of Canada, said he did not know much about Poly9, as they are not a member of the association.

But he said the mapping distribution industry is growing quickly.

"So it is not surprising that these types of acquisitions are taking place," he said in an email. "More and more consumers are using mapping information to help with day-to-day decisions and activities."

Apple partnered with Google to provide Google Maps with location detection for the iPhone and iPod Touch. However, the two companies have recently been starting to distance themselves from each another as competition between them grows.

In 2009, Google CEO Eric Schmidt resigned from Apple's board of directors and Apple director Arthur Levison resigned from Google's board of directors.