I can see why any Googler might be getting just a little bit paranoid. It seems like where ever they turn they are in hot water… which is getting hotter. For example the recent NSA revelations that our dear friends at the government are essentially taping into pretty much anything they want to when ever they want, irrespective of the legalities they immediately came under suspicion of allowing the dark forces access to their systems to troll through query data. Google responded by assuring the world that in cases where they are required to supply data, they send it over by secure FTP or by hand… I kid you not… it conjures the visual of Mr. Brin nipping down the road with a flash drive or two secreted about his person to deliver our darkest secrets to the powers that be.
Fast-forward to the EU where the Brussels regulators hate Google in the worst possible way are sharpening their monopoly axes, this time for Android. From the get go, Android has been a little controversial; Google offers it as essentially open source with caveats that using Android will by default provide revenue to the carrier from Google Ads. I’m not privy to what level of compulsion or commitment goes along with using Android, but Google has always had success with a “please take our product for free and allow us to give you mountains of cash for taking our ads.” That offer took them to the top in search and it’s clearly driven Android’s success to a good extent.
The temperature rose again this week when Google announced their proposed acquisition of the Israeli tech start up Waze. At the same time I take my hat off to those guys for extracting the biggest buyout payday ever secured by an Israeli company I’d hold off on the Lear Jet order until this deal gets past the US monopoly guys. The very moment the deal was announced the anti competition guys called foul and started campaigning to stop the deal. It must be said that Google does have a significant lead in the map space, and adding Waze will substantially bolster that lead… and the temperature keeps rising.
The recent hoopla over the return of Google Maps to iOS has focused on the accuracy, splendor and coolness of their revamped app. I have to agree it’s terrific. I’m fairly frequently critical of Google in these pages (nothing like biting off the hand that feeds you) but I will happily give credit where it’s due with this new app. However (you knew there was a however coming right?) it raises a set of larger and perhaps more interesting questions beyond how gosh darned neat the thing is.
So very much of what we do is essentially local. Much of the hoopla surrounding the space this year has been to do with local. It seems like every other company (including my own) is essentially trying to solve the local dilemma. We have location based apps for pretty much everything from reviews and coupons to directions and deals. Millions have spent on geo-fencing to allow stores to pull of the ‘Minority Report” greeting individual customers with appropriate messages as they enter or pass their stores. Millions more have been spent building user bases for coupon or loyalty programs so we can get offers from our favorite coffee shop. Reviews have long been a mainstay of all things online, add the exploding world of mobile to that and we have a valuable and high energy mix.
Pretty much all of the above can be best experienced with a smart mobile device and a really good map app. Google maps is just that. So in 2013 look for Google to further expand their reviews and check in options way past just the Zagat they purchased. I’d expect them to add a checking and review feature probably closely tied to a virtual geo-fence program offered to members of many loyalty programs. Look for coupons and daily deals pushed to your map app together with offers from Apple’s Passbook and or Googles Maps/Fieldtrip. The ability to pay with your mobile device although missing from iPhone 5 is already in some handsets and is likely to be in many more in the very near future. Either way, maps are central to all things local and Google has snatched the crown back. 2013 should be interesting.