The Israeli company Waze has been in the spotlight quite often in the past few years with their application’s ability to make maps easier and more accurate. Waze’s most powerful feature, which I’ve witnessed firsthand is the ability for users to not only use the maps and navigate using them, but to interact with the maps and leave feedback. This includes the ability to mention where speed cameras and police are located. Not only that, but you can see where other Waze users are on the road and you can see what they’re saying.
The real power of Waze right now, however, is the fact that their technology partly enables what we know as Apple iOS Maps. This application takes bits and pieces from different companies’ software and combines it into a cocktail known as Apple iOS Maps. Since Apple decided that they would not be using Google Maps as their default application on the iOS platform, Apple tried to develop iOS Maps and failed miserably. While Apple has quietly made improvements to this application, there is no doubt that Google’s Maps application is superior in both directions and navigation and gives an overall better experience to the user.
Now, what makes this entire situation interesting is that Google Maps is hands down one of Google’s best applications and probably has the most usefulness out of Google’s mobile apps today. Most users do not find themselves begging Google to implement new features or really change anything as it’s as fully featured as most people would like. This begs the question, why the heck does Google need to pay $1 billion for an arguably inferior maps solution? Because Waze is being used by Apple and Facebook has been rumored to be looking at Waze as well. While Apple has not gone out and purchased Waze (which they should’ve done), they still remain committed to the company and using their products. This is where buying Waze puts Google at an advantage. They can once again cripple Apple’s maps like they did with Google Maps, making sure that only certain features will be available on Android, etc.
Additionally, Waze’s software could potentially enable Google Maps to have a Waze layer (like Traffic) that tells you about what’s going on around you at the given moment. This could potentially increase engagement with Google’s Maps application and simultaneously make it more social and relevant to users. I don’t think that Google should be paying $1 billion for Waze, but I have a feeling that Google is paying that much because they’re not the only bidder.
Google has stated that they will allow Waze to operate as a mostly separate entity and will for the most part leave day to day operations untouched. They will also supposedly allow many of Waze’s Israel-based employees to remain in Israel to continue their work. This further signals that Google is simply trying to use Waze as a chess piece in their strategic game with Apple and they’re not interested in fully assimilating Waze into the Google Borg. It will be interesting to see what Google does with the newly acquired Waze, but I don’t expect anything major anytime soon.