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When I see Google Waze I cannot help but think of Google Wave which was a complete disaster. Let us hope that Google Waze does not follow in the footsteps of Wave. This morning, June 9th, 2013, I woke up to news that Google was on the brink of closing the books on a $1.3 billion acquisition of Waze. Just two weeks ago rumors were swirling that Facebook and Apple were both interested in this GPS crowd sourcing application. In the end, Google made a very smart decision by outbidding the competition.
Google Owns Maps and Navigation
It is hard to imagine what Tom Tom and Garmin are thinking right now. When I was driving around as a teenager I was so excited to finally get my hands on a GPS system that actually worked. It was one of those Garmin box type devices. In less than a decade the GPS industry has changed completely. With the use of smartphones and tablets most drivers are not willing to fork over $129 for a device that is strictly GPS based. They want a device that can be used to surf the web, play games, run apps and pretty much anything else that a computer can do. in 2013, they have that option.
Apple attempted to create a Google-less phone not too long ago. They encouraged Apple iOS users to use Apple Maps. I think we can all agree that was a failure. As soon as Google Maps came out for the latest iOS update it was the #1 app downloaded. Apple users were craving a GPS application that actually worked. I know, what a novel idea. Google displayed their dominance of maps with this little escapade but there is one area that Google does not dominate with maps and GPS – crowd sourcing.
Waze has been touted as the best crowd sourcing navigation app on the planet. The ability to get instant notifications on traffic issues is invaluable. We have all been driving on the Interstate only to see red lights about half a mile ahead. In that split second we have to decide if we are going to exit and take another route or sit in traffic and hope the accident has been cleaned up. If you are like me, you want to know your options as quickly as possible.
With Waze you would have known about the accident and traffic jam three minutes ago. This would have allowed you to take a detour and get to your destination in a much more timely manner. Waze is a social network for drivers. Crowd sourcing traffic data is extremely important to Google and every other Internet company. What most people do not realize is the data collection that is available through this app.
Waze is a Gold Mine for Google
While all these drivers are out and about avoiding accidents they are running the app which is tracking their location. This gives Waze information on their most commonly traveled routes and roads. Google already has the data as to what businesses are on these roads. The next time you have to take a detour from I-40 Google knows that you will pass three Starbucks locations and two Panera Bread locations. Google also knows that you love to eat sandwichs as you looked up unique sandwich recipes just last week. Ding. Ding. Ding.
Another value of Waze is the online gaming integration. I was part of the Ingress addiction for about two months and I can tell you that people love to drive around playing games if there is an incentive. I saw many adult men and women driving hundreds of miles to play Ingress. In fact, one individual saved up a weekly allowance for gas to drive great distances to play this game. If there is an incentive to drive around, people are going to do it.
Google vs Facebook
I first heard that Facebook wanted to purchase Waze several weeks ago. I chuckled as I wondered how they were going to integrate a mapping app into their ecosystem. After a few days went by I heard about Google being interested in Waze. I completely understood Google being interested as it is a search engine and mapping company. At the time, I knew Google would outbid Facebook because Facebook is running out of money quickly. Facebook has sunk millions into Facebook Home and other silly projects that cannot even get off the ground.
Google prints money with their Internet Advertising as they have over $50 billion in cash sitting around. Google has been very smart to save up this cash for a purchase like Waze. Even though Waze might not be valued at $1.3 billion today, Google will make much more in the long run. Just ask them about that YouTube acquistion.