The naysayers were wrong in 2006 — is this Google's latest genius move?
The rumors turned into official news earlier this week. Google has acquired Waze, a social mapping and navigation company. Most industry pundits are aware of speculation that Apple and Facebook also were interested buyers. Google emerged as the winning bidder. I think this solidifies their position as a forward thinking leader in mobile computing.
The computing industry is quickly shifting to mobile computing. Just look at Mary Meeker’s D11 presentation slides showing how the iPad has already overtaken volumes of notebook and desktop PCs (separately, not the combined number). Mobile is now so important that major new services are commonly launched as mobile-only. Waze, Vine and SnapChat are a few good examples.
Google has been a mapping leader ever since it first launched Google Maps. Remember MapQuest before that? When Google Maps came out the interface was dramatically better! Directions were awesome. Satellite imagery was added. Google started mapping the world’s streets with super fancy cameras to create Street View.
When I was a kid we had none of this. We had paper maps and chicken-scratch directions that someone might give to you over the phone. No GPS, no mobile devices, no nothing. Here we are many years later and the paper map industry is all but dead.
I think we are at the very early stages of Google making money from its mapping assets. Yeah, you’ll see some sponsored ads, but I doubt this is a serious money-maker. It reminds me very much of YouTube, which Google also acquired in 2006 for $1.65 billion. At the time people thought Google was insane. They said YouTube could never make any money.