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One of the more interesting tech rumors of the new year involves Waze, the heavily-funded Silicon Valley startup that specializes in mobile traffic data and easy-to-use navigation apps.

Citing unnamed sources, TechCrunch is reporting that Apple, which experienced its share of mobile mapping missteps last year, is in the market to gobble up Waze (perhaps for as much as $500 million or more). Neither Apple or Waze are commenting, and TechCrunch’s report seems a bit short on sourcing.

But a deal could make some sense, and it would certainly be closely watched in the Seattle area where Kirkland-based traffic analytics company INRIX is believed to be getting ready for an initial public offering of its own.

Apple’s launch of its mobile maps offering for iOS last year didn’t turn out so well, with a full slate of glitches and misguided directions.

With Waze, which relies on community members to report traffic bottlenecks and make commutes less painful, could Apple look to make a comeback in maps?

Waze raised $30 million in funding in October 2011, and according to TechCrunch had less than $1 million in revenue last year. Total VC funding stands at about $67 million.

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