Thursday, June 07, 2012

MY Map Is Better Than Yours!

The battles between Google, Apple and Microsoft are often complex and are more than just operating systems, they are about a wide range of services many of which we take for granted but that are now starting change.

The latest battlefield appears to be maps and mapping services and Google’s maps are used by some 1 billion users, over 800,000 developers on virtually all mobile platforms. We have seen Google Earth and Streetview and since 2008 our use of the mapping services has exploded along with the driving direction miles supported by the system which have  doubled to some 26 million miles and now cover 187 countries. Interestingly some 20% of all search queries to Google are location related which means the service is a major segment to them and they related revenues.

So is the battle over and the ground surrendered to Google? Apparently not and Apple is rumoured to be primed to decouple Google maps from its devices and replace the service with its own service for smartphones and tablets. With over 600,000 registered users and the support of Microsoft, OpenStreetMap, the free and volunteer-driven crowdsourced atlas, offers another viable alternative and is being adopted by the likes of developers such as Foursquare and by Wikipedia mobile.

Google however are not standing still and the competition is driving them to develop their mapping service. Google yesterday gave a preview in San Francisco of new features such as 3D enhancements to Google Earth, a portable device for taking "street view" panoramic photos and offline access to Google Maps on Android phones. The 3D rendering generates detailed models from 45-degree aerial photos which have been taken from a fleet of aircraft. The result offers a zoomable 3D viw of cities with top as well side level views of buildings, streets and landscaping. They claim it will be, ‘almost as if you are in a personal helicopter hovering over the city.’ The new feature will be available on both Android and iOs devices in weeks and on desktops later this year.

Google claim that by the end of the year, some 300 million people in the US and some international cities will be able to look at their own communities using the technology.

As we move forward there are increasing questions on where we place our technology bets. It is not just down to devices, platforms, operating systems, development tools, office tools, connectivity, app stores, supportable software but basic links to and ability to integrate to services consumers expect. In this complex environment the giants will dictate the pace and direction of change but will they all be equal in their offer and appeal? 

1 comment:

Elroy LaSalle said...

Yes, you are very much so correct, the battle over virtual maps is a very real conflict. Yet, I believe that Google's efforts to upgrade its maps are in vain. You mentioned Apple decoupling its devices from Google Maps, many users in this day and age do not wish to take the time to go the extra mile to find a better map, even if it is not far off. In this way, it is all about which map is seen first and has the easiest access. Unfortunately, the better map may not win. This dilemma of location of material rather than quality of material is a common precipitate of mass media in the 21st century.