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.
Having just followed the blog feature by feature iPhone announcement I’m struck by the incremental impact this may have on search. Some will doubtless criticize Apple for a product which is only better by degree…a bit thinner, a bit longer, a bit faster (maybe a lot faster), a better camera, better sound, better microphone the list goes on. What I’m more intrigued by are the incremental incursions into search iPhone 5 points to. Apple has added Siri to the iPod Touch, its added Siri coverage to many of the kind of queries that are central to search such as sports, movies and restaurants. None of these incremental additions are complete game changers on their own, just as arguably none of the individual features make the iPhone5 a game changer but they point to a growth in App based engagement which means we are searching in many more places than we ever have and on many more devices. The Kelsey projections have desktop search surpassing desktop inside of two years. Apple was focused today on what they rather neatly call a “post PC” world. The tablet part of that world is already heavily Apple centric with a 68% market share but interestingly they also claimed that the “Our notebooks rank #1 in the US in market share for the past three months.” These trends point to the continuing struggle for dominance between Microsoft, Google, Apple and increasingly Amazon. Search is one of those key battle grounds. Apple has historically never been a search leader yet in a Post PC world there may be very little stopping Apple becoming an inadvertent search leader….one incremental feature at a time.