Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Google updates the press on Google Maps, plays prevent defense as Apple gets set to unveil its own solution

The rumors of Apple unveiling its own map solution were all but confirmed by a rather strange, and at times desperate sounding presentation this morning by Google.

The presentation, dubbed "The Next Dimension of Google Maps", was held to unveil some of the enhancements the company plans on making soon. These introductions include 3D maps and offline reading of maps. Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps, ran the show that often went overboard and shrill and the company claimed that it's products had saved the lives of over 4,000 New Orleans residents during Hurricane Katrina.

The presentation was not very subtle. At least not until the company got to the heart of the matter, the new introductions. As cool as 3D rendering might be, the introduction of offline maps may be the most useful. With the soon to be launched feature, a user can download a map in advance of a trip then use that map more or less as if it were live – no Internet connection needed.

In essence, the offline map acts like a screenshot that keeps clear when the user zooms in, and that uses the devices navigation capabilities to continue to track movement.

It should be noted that Android still has no easy screenshot capability compared to iOS.

But Google made it quite clear that these new feature would be available for Android, never mentioning iOS support. Anyone who wonders now about the wisdom of Apple's move to mapping can now be sure that Apple had to go in this direction.*

The new features will be great for users, but I don't think Google in anyway took the focus off of Apple's WWDC which starts next week Monday. In fact, I think Google cleared the decks for Apple, now the media are free to obsess over all the rumors. Whether a better presentation could have prevented this is doubtful.

* Just to be clear, the 3D rendering will be available to all users, just not the offline maps. Also, Google will have to, eventually at least, create a new Google app for iOS – the audience is just too big.