Apple is looking to purchase another 96 acres of land near Prineville, Oregon, according to The Oregonian. Though the company expressing interest in the property is going by the name "Project Pillar," the Portland newspaper said that the company behind Project Pillar "is plainly Apple."
Apple already has a data center in the area, a 338,000 square foot facility it began constructing in 2012. In addition to that facility, Apple already has plans on file to build a second facility on the land it already owns.
This new report of additional land would therefore mean that Apple is considering building at least a third data facility in the area, though there's no guarantee the land purchase will take place.
In fact, one issue involved with this tract of land is that it lies outside of the Prineville city limits. The Oregonian reported that the city is already in the process of incorporating the land so that it could then be developed for industrial uses.
That, in turn, suggests that this is not a near-term project for Apple, but rather a long term play for the company. I should also note that Apple has other data centers around the county, including a large facility in Maiden, North Carolina, with rumors of other data centers in development, too.
All of which begs the question of what Apple has cooking that will need so much data collection and processing capabilities. It's clearly more than iTunes, iAd, Apple Maps, and Siri as we know them today, but is Apple merely planning on an expansion of these services, or does the company have dramatically large new services in the pipeline?
My personal assumption is that it's a mix of expansion and new services. Apple certainly has much bigger plans for Siri than we've seen so far, and the company has been adding features to Apple Maps at a brisk clip. I imagine that Apple also plans to compete head to head with Google Now, and surely there are projects about which we know nothing at all.
Apple's data center expansion is one reason why I think people who say Apple can no longer innovate are largely idiots. This is the one of the few areas of proof we have that Apple many and more unannounced project actively in the works.