Category Archives: Google Places (Maps & Local)

Comments, research and information about Google Maps (Google Local)

Google Maps to Navteq: We’ll build ’em with People Power

The recent purchase of NavTeq by Nokia has the potential to have incredible impact in the mobile and internet map worlds. The implications go beyond technology into social and political issues. Minimally the technology will give the largest cell phone manufacture dramatically increased technology in the mapping arena. Maps are the logical future of local mobile search. As location based information takes off, Nokia will be well positioned. Certainly since Google and Yahoo depend on this mapping technology the buyout could affect both internet and mobile use dramtatically.

In this recent Forbes article, Bruce Upbin makes the point that Nokia is unlikely to rock the boat on any exisitng contracts as they will very much need the income to pay off the price paid for NavTeq (50 times earnings).

As for Google and Yahoo’s plan he says:

Web players including Google and Yahoo! (nasdaq: YHOO – news – people ) have less to fear from Nokia owning the service that provides their digital maps — they have long-term contracts with the map databases and they never paid that much anyway. Navteq earns a license fee of about $12 a year per subscriber from Verizon (nyse: VZ – news – people )’s VZ Navigator wireless navigation service; Verizon’s customers pay about $120 a year for the service. From Google maps on a phone, Navteq maybe makes 50 cents per lookup. That favorable pricing structure could change. Nokia said in its conference call Monday that it plans to continue working with all existing partners; it has little choice if it’s going to earn back the money it will pay for Navteq.

But Google is hedging its bets. Michael T. Jones, chief technologist of Google Earth, Maps and Local, says the company never considered buying Navteq. Instead, Google could simply recreate the data far more cheaply by tapping the mapmaking skills of its hundreds of millions of users — a wiki of maps, he suggests.

“Every day more people use our product than watch TV,” he says. “They could go outside their house and draw a line on a map for us.” Drivers wouldn’t dare use such a user-generated map unless it was 100% reliable, but it would suffice for local search. Jones says people in India are already creating digital maps of roads for Google.

Could Google simply recreate the data far more cheaply by tapping the mapmaking skills of its hundreds of millions of users? That seems a stretch.

Google announces satellite imagery upgrade

At the Google Lat-Long Blog Google has announced a satellite image upgrade that will appear in Maps shortly.

Today we’ve published a significant amount of new or updated 60cm satellite imagery for Google Earth, with the Google Maps update to follow shortly. Much of this imagery is concentrated in the U.S., Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, Australia and New Zealand. I encourage everyone to go exploring — you never know what you might find.

Local Links of Interest

Nokia to buy Navteq for $8.1 billion in push to expand services, compete with Apple

Nokia’s President and Chief Executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said “location-based services are one of the cornerstones of Nokia’s Internet services strategy. The acquisition of Navteq is another step toward Nokia becoming a leading player in this space.”

Kallasvuo added that by acquiring Navteq, Nokia “will be able to bring context and geographical information to a number of our Internet services with accelerated time to market.”

Search Engines, Classifications, and Assignment of Categories

The way that items are classified on source sites may influence which categories that items from those sites are placed within on a site from a search engine which aggregates those items. They may also influence the creation of those target search engine categories.

Japan’s Mobile Phone Web Use= PC Internet Use (sort of)

Mobile Phone Web Users Nearly Equal PC Based Internet Users in Japan

53.6 Million Japanese Use Mobile Phones to Access the Internet – Email is the Most Popular Mobile Web Activity

Other tidbits:

•Interstingly 51% do Search/Navigation.
•Time spent web browsing on mobile phones is still much lower than that spent on desktop PC’s. Internet usage on mobile phones averages 8.1 hours per month versus 18.9 hours by PC -Adoption of web usage on mobile phones skews young. People under 34 years old account for 64 percent of mobile phone web users versus 45 percent of PC web users.
•Despite these significant usage figures, consumer satisfaction remains low. Only 12.6 percent of respondents accessing the Internet via a mobile device stated that they were either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied”, with 52.1 percent stating that they were either “very dissatisfied” or “somewhat dissatisfied”.

It is this last point that creates the opening for iPhone like devices. In yesterday’s WSJ an analyst noted that the iPhone faced considerably more competition in Europe than in the U.S. and thus might not do as well there. He noted that a phone with similar features was “free” with a contract. Certainly, Europe and Japan are ahead of the U.S. in the level of mobile web use, mobile technologies and speed of access. Europe will be a good test of whether those attributes trump usability. Given the stats in Japan and my personal experience (I fall in the “very dissatisfied” catergory), I would think not. “Free” is never a compelling value if it doesn’t work well.

Marissa Meyers, the iPhone and Google Maps

At SES and again at the Tech40Crunch conference Marissa Meyers was quoted as saying that the iPhone has led to a continued surge in Google Maps usage. One could obviously infer from this that (no duh!) a well designed piece of mobile hardware, that is easy to use and has well integrated, pre-installed access to local search software would have an impact on increasing mobile local search. I have written before on the need for an iPhone like device to penetrate the market for the market to go anywhere.

But there be other possible take aways from these comments. One, it doesn’t take much to move Google Map’s relatively low usage higher. Apple has sold 1 million phones. Their goal is 10 million or 1% of the phone market. Thus with 1/10 of 1% of the market “the recent iPhone release brought numerous new consumers for the Google mobile solutions as its traffic was increased from 40 percent to 50 percent when it comes to Google Maps”. Thus somewhere under a million users led to a 50% increase in usage….hmmm

The other is that WAP, .mobi etc. have not had a similar impact despite plenty of opportunity. It seems to me that these technologies are at best stop gap measures until the real “mobile” web ala the iPhone/Google Mobile is more broadly deployed.

Goog-411 rolls out bill boards in the hinterlands?

I drive 8 miles to work along NYS Route 16, down the hill known as Rock City, and past some incrediblly picturesque scenes as I head to my office in downtown Olean. The drive is rural and while Olean is called a city, it is a small (and getting smaller) rustbelt town of 15,000. It is 70 miles south of Buffalo, NY, 150 miles east of Cleveland and 150 miles north of Pittsburgh…it really is miles from nowhere (see this map), a market that most everyone forgets.

Everyone but Google it seems. Google has recently started placing billboards on our “main” north south road in their campaign for Goog-411, their free voice activated directory assistance service. Google has placed the billboard just south of town right after you pass the cemetery and just before you get to the breakfast hangout, The Robbin’s Nest. The road is not heavily traveled with a traffic count of perhaps 10,000 vehicles a day.

I recognize that they are in a pitched battle with the network operators, they were partially boxed out by the telcos on the spectrum auction, they are having trouble penetrating the walled garden of the cell world…but there is more than a little irony in a billboard campaign in Olean, no? That being said, it makes sense.

Google Maps expands coverage

The many posters from around the world at the Google Maps for Business Group will have reason to rejoice today as Google has announced at the Google Lat-Long blog that Google Maps has dramatically increased world wide coverage. You can now see where McDonald’s are in Costa Rica.

From the Google Lat-Long blog:
Today we added 54 new countries to Google Maps! We’ve more than doubled our coverage of Latin America and are now mapping three times as many countries in Asia as before….

Here’s the full list of new countries:
Afghanistan, Aruba, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Bermuda, Brunei Darussalam, Bhutan, Bolivia, Cambodia, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Mongolia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Timor-Leste, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen

We have better detail for some countries than others, but this is just the beginning. In coming months, we’ll be working tirelessly to add more detail to the existing countries in Google Maps, and we’ll also be adding new countries to the list.

Google SMS Adds Location-Based Personalization Automatically

In a recent post, The Google Operating System Blog points out that Google SMS Adds Location-Based Personalization to your text queries of its local business database by sending a SMS to Google that contains the command:
set location [city, zip code, address]

In recent trip to NYC with my family over labor day weekend I discovered that Google will automatically (no command required) set your default location in an SMS query after three queries as well. By setting the location automatically after a limited number of queries, Google cuts key entry time in half on all subsequent queries for users like me that are too lazy to explore the help file or send a command.
I experimented with Goog-411, Google Maps & Google SMS as local tools during this tourist visit and found that when walking down the street or perusing a shop or museum, Google SMS was an incredibly valuable alternative to find a known store’s location and phone number. In many ways it was preferable to Directory Assistance as it was silent and unobtrusive. Once received as a text message it was then a simple task to tell my Nokia to find the number and dial it if need be or add it to my contacts.