Boston Startups Stake Out iPad Territory: Big Plans at Apperian, Jumptap, Skyhook

For Boston-area startups that have already spent years staking out their corners of the mobile marketplace, getting on board with the Apple iPad—and the new set of business opportunities it creates—is a no-brainer. At least two local companies have already announced they’re providing technologies or services targeted at the tablet-sized device, and the area’s application developers are diving in too, looking for ways to optimize existing mobile apps for iPad, or build entirely new ones.

I’ve touched base today with a number of these local players, and have rounded up their news, comments, and approaches below. Many of these folks have clearly known about the iPad project for months, but couldn’t talk due to Apple’s strict confidentiality rules. If there’s a common theme in what they’re saying now, it’s that they expect the technology and marketing elements that have worked so well on the iPhone—things like location awareness, specialty apps, and rich-media advertising—to work even better on the iPad. And each is ready to help clients and consumers take advantage of the new platform.

At Boston-based Skyhook Wireless, which makes software that allows laptops and mobile gadgets to translate Wi-Fi or GPS signals into an exact location fix, CEO Ted Morgan announced via Twitter yesterday that Skyhook’s software will be built into the iPad. That means iPad owners, just like iPhone users, will be able to locate themselves on the device’s native map interface, as long as there are a few Wi-Fi networks in the neighborhood. (Skyhook’s software works by collecting the IDs of nearby Wi-Fi networks, checking them against its global database of Wi-Fi access point locations, and triangulating.) It also means that the location data will be available to third-party apps running on the iPad, starting with the 140,000 existing iPhone/iPod Touch apps in the iTunes App Store.

The significance of the iPad deal, for Skyhook, is that “it shows in general that all mobile devices are going to have location in them,” Morgan told me. “It’s our goal at Skyhook to make sure we are the ones providing location on all of them, and this just broadens our technology into a whole new device category.”

Morgan points out that more and more apps are incorporating location awareness, even those that have nothing to do with maps or navigation. “Music apps, movie-finders, newsreaders are all starting to have location,” he says. On the iPad, location data will initially be used in much the same way that it’s used on laptops, Morgan predicts. For example, Skyhook announced this week that … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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