Apple might be getting ready to rival Google in the online mapping space, according to Seth Weintraub at Computerworld. The Cupertino-based company has recently purchased PlaceBase, creators of a mapping API called Pushpin, and hired their CEO and founder Jaron Waldman to work on the so-called “Geo Team.”

The acquisition has naturally sparked speculation that Apple may be looking distance itself from the search giant by creating a mapping service to replace Google Maps on the Mac and iPhone. While this certainly is a possibility, knowing how the company likes to control the technology behind their devices, it may also go a long way explaining why Apple rejected Google’s Latitude for its App Store.

Placebase is a mapping service similar to Google Maps, and the Pushpin API resembles Latitude, only that it offers more ways to customize maps with deep array public and commercial data sets, including boundaries, social and demographic, financial, cell phone coverage, traffic information and weather information. It is certainly possible that realizing the importance of geo-location services, Apple is simply cooking something it doesn't want competition for.

This may be just the latest in a series of disputes between the two companies. As Weintraub notes, Apple has also been fighting with Google lately over the Google Voice app, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently quit Apple’s board to avoid conflicts of interest.