waze

It’s official: Google has just bought Waze, a social mapping and location startup, for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition strengthens Google’s already leading Maps solution and related location services on the web and mobile devices. The deal follows months of speculation, with stories earlier this year predicting Apple would acquire the Israeli startup in order to improve own data in iOS Maps…

The Internet giant broke the news on its official blog:

To help you outsmart traffic, today we’re excited to announce we’ve closed the acquisition of Waze. This fast-growing community of traffic-obsessed drivers is working together to find the best routes from home to work, every day.

Waze taps crowdsourced data to deliver real-time traffic updates from “friends and fellow travelers ahead of you” so you could check out faster routes that others are taking, Google notes.

The Waze blog post acknowledges that Google CEO Larry Page along with Brian McClendon and the Google Maps teams “have been following our progress closely and are excited about what we’ve accomplished”.

Noting that “nothing practical will change” at the company, Waze said it evaluated many options.

“We believe Google is the best partner for Waze, our map editors, area managers, champs and nearly 50 million Wazers globally,” the firm wrote.

“Google is out there creating a standard of quality,” Waze CEO Noam Bardin said at AllThingsD’s Dive Into Mobile in April.

Speaking of the Apple-Google rivalry in the mapping space, he opined:

Apple Maps are definitely getting better, but the challenge Apple has is that it’s hostage to its vendors – and those vendors are weak these days. TomTom is challenged, whereas Google has an unlimited war chest to better its apps.

He also said “Apple really needs to learn to partner,” citing tight Facebook and Twitter integration is making the overall iOS user experience “better for both the partner and for Apple.”

Apple surely can’t be too happy with one of its key data providers having fallen into the hands of its arch rival. Then again, Apple was rumored to be interested in buying Waze so the company should only blame itself for letting Google (again) beat it in the acquisition game.

As you know, Tim Cook named Waze as one of App Store map makers in his apology letter over the iOS 6 Maps debacle.

The bigger question is whether Google will leverage the Waze acquisition to stop supplying location and mapping data to Apple Maps? I’m also wondering what now happens to Waze’s free social GPS application on the App Store.

At any rate, this deal is a double-blow to Apple. Not only will Waze help Googe enhance Google Maps, it could also leave Appl without a valuable source of data for its own Maps.

Thoughts?