The Whole World in Apple’s Hand

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Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) CEO Steve Jobs has the whole world in his hands.

It's in his iPhone, thanks to Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) . The Big G this week debuted Google Earth for the iPhone. "Even before we introduced Google Earth back in 2005, the team had long dreamed of being able to carry the Earth around in your pocket," wrote product manager Peter Birch in Google's blog.

Neat. Neater still is how Google is taking advantage of the iPhone's ability to locate itself. So, for example, you can "fly" to where you are in Google Earth or use Wikipedia to obtain location-specific articles.

Location, location, location
Location is the killer feature of the iPhone. Or at least that's how start-up Loopt, which has its own iPhone app, sees it. We met with two of the company's top staffers during our recent "innovation tour" of Silicon Valley.

To me, Loopt is Meetup meets Facebook. Technically, though, it's a mapping application that allows you to keep track of where your friends are in the real world. Yelp listings for restaurant listings are also embedded. Over time, executives say, it's a platform ripe for extremely rich advertising and couponing.

I've little doubt they're right. I'd stop for a morning latte if, while within walking distance of my local Starbucks, Loopt downloaded a $0.50 coupon to my iPhone. Partnerships with Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) , AT&T (NYSE: T  ) , Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) , and MetroPCS (NYSE: PCS  ) further speak to the potential for Loopt's business. If, that is, Google, AT&T, and others decide not to invent their own socially savvy location-based services.

So it's anyone guess as to how big this market becomes. All we know at this point is that legendary venture capitalist John Doerr was right: The iPhone is a platform -- a golden delicious business for an Apple that already has so many.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers and his Rule Breakers teammates recently returned from Silicon Valley, where they visited more than a dozen established and emerging innovators. Care to learn more? Just tell us where to send you our updates, absolutely free.

Tim had both stock and option positions in Apple and Google at the time of publication. Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple is a Stock Advisor selection. Sprint Nextel is an Inside Value selection. Read all of Tim's Foolish writings here. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy has been right for 15 years straight.

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