There have been multiple rumors reported by multiple sites over the past few weeks (Apple Insider, Mac Rumors, TUAW) speculating that Apple was taking a long hard look at Waze, a crowd sourced, GPS app developer for both iOS and Android.
It was later determined that TechCrunch, the source for all of the speculation had it wrong. However, the idea still has merit.
- Crowd sourced (read: user validated) Maps
The biggest problem Apple Maps has is that it’s a 1.0 version app. Google Maps has been on Apple devices for quite some time, and Apple basically knew what it wanted to do with the app. However, they haven’t had to worry about rolling their own mapping solution…EVER, until now. Apple Maps was, in all fairness, a decent shot at a new app for Apple, but it does have some very serious issues. The bulk of those issues are with the map data provided by TomTom (and powered via their relatively recent purchase of TeleNav). It may also stem from the way the Apple Maps makes use of the data. Unfortunately for Apple, they are still taking the lion’s share of the blame for the sometimes glaring navigation and satellite image errors within the app.Waze provides a way for users to validate the data. Users can report problems or provide updates to map data that can then be incorporated back into the app. While the method is reminiscent of a real life version of Pac Man, it works and works well. Users validate or update map data and the data gets assimilated and provided back to users in a “reasonable amount of time.”Incorporating this method of data validation into Apple Maps would provide Apple real time, corrected or updated map data from around the world. It would also give users the feeling that they are correcting the reported, egregious errors. This is a clear win-win for users as well as Apple. Both sides get what they want – more accurate map data, ASAP.
- Local search
There’s BIG money in local search. Waze’s focus is validating that what it thinks is around you, actually is around you, which directly supports local search. As such, Waze can get you there from here, but its strength isn’t really navigation.It does local search VERY well. It has hundreds of thousands of users validating its map data on a daily basis. It knows exactly what’s near you or how far away you are from where you want to be. This is an area of competency that Google feels confident it does well, too. If Apple wanted to challenge Google in the local search arena, an acquisition of Waze could have gone a long way to making that challenge credible.
In acquiring Waze, Apple could have resolved two of its biggest map based criticisms. It wants to vindicate Tim Cook’s public apology for Apple Maps and it wants to be a serious player in Mobile Search. Waze does the latter well and would likely have been an acquisition that would have increased its competitive edge with Google.