Why GPS Matters


My post the other day about GPS in Leopard (I’m hoping, ok?) received a comment asking why it would be advantageous for Apple hardware to come equipped with GPS. To be fair, maybe it’s more useful for the MacBook line, but I think there are uses for it in desktop systems as well – maybe make it an option for these models…?

With GPS built into the hardware, and an operating system aware of this capability, you’ve got potential for adding location-aware metadata to files and applications. Say you created a document while you were here in Denver last year, but you can’t remember where you filed it or what it was called. Search Spotlight based on coordinates – or maybe a plugin that translates coordinates to cities – or altitude (because Denver’s 5280ft above sea level) and find a listing of the files you created while here.

Maybe you’re really into traveling and photography and you want to geotag your photos. With GPS built into the machine your photos would immediately be given the GPS location data in their metadata details. Then with some slick coding you could have an app that read that GPS metadata and posted your images with geotag information and you wouldn’t have to do anything else.

So those are the less obvious uses I suppose. But with the ingenuity of the Mac [developer] community, I doubt it would take any time at all for a handful of cool location-aware applications began popping-up.

On the obvious side, there’s mapping and directional uses like Google Maps, but on the go. Have a look at TUAW’s post just today about GPS software for the Mac. I think there’s a lot of possibility in a move of this nature. And as a bona fide Geek, I would be thoroughly excited at the prospect of this announcement, should we actually hear something about it at MacWorld next week.



From the last few comments it has become clear that the upsides for having GPS in computers is minimal considering the costs involved to make such a thing happen. And I wouldn’t knock the rumour itself, its obviously generating enough interest!

Michael May


Steve J: And there is one more thing… for all you geographically confused farmers, we’ve put GPS in all our macs so you know where you are!

This is getting stupider by the minute. Come up with some decent rumours or wait till monday, please!


“within x miles of where you are”

This would actually be useful for farmers or people who live outside of towns. The only thing a user can set is their town-based location. For a farmer who lives exactly 20 miles between 2 towns, that doesn’t help them much if they’re looking for the nearest parts dealer (yes, they should know where to get tractor parts by now:).

Michael May

I’m pretty sure that GPS doesn’t work inside – even 2 feet from the window, it needs direct line of sight for a large part of the sky, so that would eliminate its use in most places. Secondly, it’s therefore doubly pointless for desktops, since i) they don’t move and ii) they stay inside. Thirdly, I’m pretty sure most people use their laptops inside as well. I can’t really see this as appealing to the mass market, so why would apple do it?

*prepares to eat hat next monday*


Thanks for answering my question!

The items you mentioned are probably just a few of the many ideas Apple could implement if GPS is in Apple hardware, however there is the issues of security and privacy which you failed to mention and I think your readers should be aware of. The example of having co-ordinates as meta data sounds all well and good (trivial as it is), however on the flip side implementations involving GPS could work against the user.

Forget the meta data example. Anyone who has a different agenda (i.e. hackers) MAY be able to do some damaging stuff with GPS if it becomes a part of Apple hardware and becomes mainstream. Would you really want a hacker to know the exact location of your MacBook? Would you want anyone to know? Some may not care, others would be really thinggy about it, like me :)

Henri Bergius

GPS is not the only way applications could gain information on user’s physical position, which is why the GNOME folks are trying to come up with a nice abstraction layer that supports multiple sources like GeoIP, Plazes and GPS.


this would also allow location based web services and plenty of opportunities for a potential .mac update. Imagine local searches without ever entering your location – just “within x miles of where you are”. Or driving directions using your gps location as starting point. Or even using your mac as a nav systems. Open up a whole lot of possibilities. Location based chatting. Show all my friends online within 5 miles. etc., etc., etc. Would be REALLY cool to integrate GPS into an iPod device, especially when it goes wireless – and iPhone as well. Apple could mainstream GPS in the way it has with so many other technologies. It is the perfect use of their hardware/software integration advantage. They can build the features into the hardware and utilize them in software the way no one else can.

David Shepard

Metadata rules! You can’t have too much metadata imho. That aside, I’ve got a half a dozen reasons I’d love to have GPS built into my Mac. The biggest reason is simple: mapping software. I know plenty of people who attach external GPS receivers to their PCs and take them on the road. They provide a nice, large screen by which to follow a map or make route changes. Also, features like voice activation are more natural on a laptop than on some small unit with limited hardware resources. Apple has a way of getting things right. There are currently no GPS units on the market I am truly happy with. They are all too limiting and assume too much about your intended use.


But would GPS functions/services for MacBook’s or MacBook Pro’s be availble only domestically or internationally? If one person has a blog who is a travel writer, would the GPS functions/services in say Mexico or Brazil? Chile? South Africa? Uganda? If the functions/services are not available internationally, why include the GPS hardware/software in the first place?


It sure would be nice to have the setting of “Location” (for networking) done automatically based on where your laptop is currently located. :)

Nick Santilli

Sorry Mark, was thinking it in my head but it never made it to the keyboard – but yes, it would be dependent upon downloading them to your computer at the location. But for someone such as myself who is never without their MacBook, this would rock.

Mark Johnson

The example of geotagging doesn’t necessarily make sense… given it would tag your photos with the location of your computer, not the photos. Given that you may travel tens or hundreds of miles between the time you took the shot and you downloaded them to the computer… wouldn’t this be something you didn’t want?

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