I’m suffering from what you might call “maps fatigue” so I’m generally avoiding following, let alone commenting, on all the kvetching and discussion of Apple Maps that’s still going on. Today, however, Wall Mossberg put out a lengthy and positive review of Google Maps on Android, mentioning that the company is adding Street View to the HTML version of maps (for iOS until its app can be ready).
There’s really nothing new in what he says for those that have followed the ascent of Google Maps over the years. Google Maps on Android is a terrific product. And I wish I had it on the iPhone (though soon I will apparently).
It needs to be said however that in the Apple Maps’ “fiasco” the company has done the entire maps market segment an unintended, big favor. This is slightly different than what I said last week when I wrote that the whole flap would ultimately benefit consumers.
Prior to the arrival of Apple Maps Google had developed a near monopoly with its mapping product. Even though there are a host of other mapping tools and sites, including OpenStreetMap, Bing, Nokia and Mapquest, Google Maps had established what appeared to be a nearly unassailable position, especially in mobile.
Apple Map’s arrival have focused new attention on companies such as Waze, Telenav/Scout and a range of others. (I like Recce quite a bit.) Eventually the Apple Maps product will be competitive but the screw up and the corresponding attention Apple has given to others has suddenly made the segment feel competitive again. Consumers are aware that there are a range of options. The segment has “opened up” a bit.
A subtle way in which this is manifested is in the mapping UI. Even though Apple Maps’ data and search are inferior Apple has created a superior UI to Google Maps. That has in part helped break the “aesthetic lock” that Google Maps had over our vision of what maps should look like. OpenStreetMap has also helped do this. Bing, Mapquest and Nokia (in the US) have been unsuccessful to date in making inroads against Google Maps from a traffic or “aesthetic” standpoint.
Google is certainly still the juggernaut in maps: Google Maps is the top mobile travel property, taking 78% of all mobile travel time according to Nielsen. But it is also now being forced to scramble and “innovate” (building a new iOS app and bringing Street View to the mobile web version of its maps). I view all this as positive for the “industry.”
I’m curious what you think. Do you think that Apple Maps and smaller parties now will make inroads against Google? Or do you think once all this blows over that Google Maps will be more dominant than ever?