Touché! Google Plans to Announce Its Own 3D Maps Before Apple

The empire strikes back! Google sent out the following invitation to the press for an event next Wednesday, June 6, at 9:30 a.m. PST:

"At this invitation-only press gathering, Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps and Google Earth, will give you a behind-the-scenes look at Google Maps and share our vision. We’ll also demo some of the newest technology and provide a sneak peek at upcoming features that will help people get where they want to go—both physically and virtually. We hope to see you there."

The title of the event, “The next dimension of Google Maps,” is a clear tip of the hat to Google adding 3D maps to it s standard offering. The significance here is that the demo will be less than a week before WWDC2012 event at which Apple is expected to introduce its own map app, complete with 3D capabilities, as part of its next generation mobile software, iOS 6. The other piece of the puzzle is that Google is making moves to monetize its services on all fronts, so making the value proposition for its unique offerings is crucial.

Google, and in fact all of the big internet companies, are at a crossroads. As Facebook’s recent fizzle has shown, counting on advertising as the sole means of monetizing these massive services is not a good idea. The growth of Google’s own text advertising business is slowing and it is unclear how much display and mobile ad revenues will bring in.

Tim Worstall has written in these pages about how Google makes more from licensing its software to Apple for use in the iPhone than it does directly from Android. This, of course, will change if Apple replaces Google maps with its own offering. But beyond Apple, Google has begun to charge developers for API access to Google Maps data, which heretofore has been free for all but the biggest customers, like Apple.
Google has just launched a developer portal for the Google Maps API that is, according to the company, is intended to “inspire the next wave of innovation on the Google Maps API, and to connect developers and decision makers with the tools and services that can make their products better.” The portal is a great place to see some of the really interesting ways that companies are making use of the map data, including 3D applications.

These moves are in concert with the addition of “Knowledge Graph” summary boxes for many popular searches and enhancements to the display of shopping, travel and restaurant information. All in all, Google is making their data more consumable, more easily, in more ways.

The fact that they want to start charging for aspects of their services that have previously been free could actually be a good thing for consumers. Google spokesman Sean Carlson told the New York Times that the pricing “is intended to encourage responsible use” of Maps data and “secure its long-term future.” The rationale is that people, and companies, use resources more efficiently if they pay for them.

What we are seeing here with Google we will soon see all over the web as companies move from growth mode into an emphasis on consolidation and profitability. We may all end up paying directly for the services we use on the web, but the directness of that transaction may eventually curb the excesses in the abuse of user data.

If companies can become profitable from the content and services themselves, as opposed to relying on advertising as the sole support, it will lead to more satisfying experiences on both sides of the ledger sheet. And Google seems to be leading the way.

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13 April 2024

12 04 2024