Google Finalizes Acquisition of Waze Traffic App
Carl Howe, an analyst with Yankee Group, told eWEEK that his impression of the deal is that Google bought Waze in large part to keep it out of the hands of two prime competitors, Facebook and Apple. "It's taking it off the table," said Howe. Several years, ago, at an early Google I/O Developers Conference, Google engineers discussed their work with the idea of crowd-sourced traffic mapping technology and they were "surprised to find out that it didn't work very well." Instead, Google Maps has received its traffic report data from commercially available fleet vehicle traffic reports from GPS systems, said Howe. "That turns out to be way more accurate than the crowd-sourced stuff." Certainly, those earlier experiences could have changed since then for Google, said Howe. Maybe the company is looking to avoid spending money for the fleet data, he said.For Google, it's probably "worth a fair amount of money" to block Apple, said Howe. Google's discussions with Waze began after previous talks between Waze and Facebook failed to reach a similar agreement, according to the earlier reports. Those discussions came after yet another rumored deal arose in late 2012 when Apple purportedly was about to purchase Waze. At the time, the rumors called for Apple to acquire Waze to bolster its own mapping services, which had suffered after Apple tried to build a Google Maps replacement for its iOS 6 operating system in September 2012. Waze is a mobile navigation app for iPhones and Google Android devices that allows drivers to build and use live maps, real-time traffic updates and turn-by-turn navigation. Waze works by allowing users to crowd-source their commutes and other drives using the app to report traffic jams, accidents and other traffic details along the way. Waze is free for users, which has contributed to its popularity. After the Oklahoma tornadoes and Interstate 5 bridge collapse in Washington state in May, Waze crowd-sourcing was used to help drivers in those areas avoid the major traffic jams created by the disasters, according to the Waze Blog.
But more likely, Google bought Waze just so it could keep the technology out of the hands of Facebook and Apple so that they "wouldn't have a competitive traffic product without building it themselves," he said. "It happens all the time."