Maps are only growing in importance as they become the primary portal on mobile phones for a growing list of information and services. As Apple showed us last year, it's critical to own maps - and to do maps well, particularly as a growing percentage of time is spent discovering, accessing, and engaging content within maps. With that said, it's not immediately clear to me what justifies a $1B+ (reported) price tag for Google’s acquisition of Waze, but I'll assume they did great due diligence or offered a high price to get a deal done.
For instance, many companies do acquisitions for audience, but Google's audience - even just on Android or Google Maps is substantial. Waze's website says 30M users; other sources say 50M. Apparently, engagement among users is high ... but is it well distributed? Are there enough active users in each market for the same excellent experience?
However, Waze does add new features that Google Maps doesn't already have e.g., the ability of users to report traffic issues, police cameras, broken down vehicles - you name it. Layering user-generated content into maps in real time in a way that makes sense and is useful to everyone at that place at that moment is not typical. Mobile needs to be highly contextual in ways people are beginning to understand, but are really struggling to implement well. It also increases speed to market if Google/Android team were otherwise developing this on their own.
With maps integrated into every retail, travel, banking, insurance, (ok go down the list) app on your phone, I don’t think any company can have too much map technology, or too many engineers/developers for maps and navigation technology.
I’ve always been a map person with maps showing up in my house as floor rugs, shower curtains, clothing, dishes, jigsaw puzzles etc. So the ESRI User Conference was right up my alley.
With the explosion of data (and interest in data), organizations are desperate for ways to organize, visualize and better leverage it. Maps are a perfect way to make data real, and the stats on ESRI’s conference show it. The role of “geographical information system” (GIS) professional is thriving. The event organizers registered 14,922 attendees by mid-week, with over 15,000 expected by the end of the week-long event. Attendees represented 126 countries, US representation being largest, but the rest of the top ten including Canada, Japan, Germany, the UK, Australia, South Korea, Mexico, Norway and South Africa. Of the 36 industries represented, most were public sector including state and local government, defense and intelligence and federal government. But interesting examples were provided across retail – e.g. the use of traffic and demographic data to evaluate and compare alternative retail locations – and other commercial sectors. The list of use cases was impressive – with lofty uses such as planning for the future, preserving resources, and exploration to more down-to-earth examples such as building management, urban planning and law enforcement. In most cases, where there is data, there could be a map to show it, and help understand it better.