Google Reveals New Zagat Website, Mobile Apps
User Michael Liebman wrote that the new offering is definitely wanting. "So I have to go back to buying and carrying the annual printed survey book in order to see listing for more than just the curated list?" he wrote. "I guess I'll be looking elsewhere for restaurant reviews." David Bizer, meanwhile, wrote that he hopes the services will improve quickly. "I was super excited to see this and then I downloaded it. 9 cities, no Europe - I see it says it's coming in the blog - hopefully soon. Reviews on functionality in the App Store aren't great either. Come on Google - all of us food people are counting on you to continue and make Zagat even better!" Two IT analysts told eWEEK that the early release of the products before they are actually finished isn't a shock. "Google often releases stuff before it's fully cooked," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst of Enderle Group. "But I'm not convinced it's good policy" because it can leave early users disappointed. Another recent example of that is Google's release of its new $35 Chromecast television dongle, which went on sale July 25, said Enderle. "Look at Chromecast—it's pretty light on features and things but they just released it. They tend to release things and then improve the products over time."Google purchased Zagat, which aggregates reviews on restaurants, nightspots, hotels and other attractions from around the world, in September 2011 after Google failed in several previous attempts to buy similar businesses. In 2009 Google unsuccessfully sought to buy local review powerhouse Yelp in 2009 and in 2010 failed in a try for coupon provider Groupon. After those deals died, Google went on to relaunch its local search product as Google Places, significantly improving the service with its own recommendation engine and reviews. Earlier in July, Google also announced that its Zagat reviews were getting new 5.0 star rating systems in the latest Google Maps apps for iPhone and iPad, and for Android devices. The ratings systems give users Zagat's ratings on restaurants, bars, cafes and other destinations. Reviews from friends and acquaintances are also available through the apps.
Dan Maycock, an analyst with Slalom Consulting, said he thinks that Google got the revised Zagat offerings out the door as part of a larger, long-term project. "Are they going after services like Yelp?" he said. "I think there's a bigger strategy at play. They're trying to become the destination for people looking for destinations. It feels like this is another aspect of that bigger strategy."