"A perfect map of the world is foundational to delivering exactly what you want, when you want, and where you want it." With those words from senior VP Amit Singhal, Google ushered in a brand new experience for Google Maps, both on the desktop and on mobile devices.
Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps took the stage on Wednesday during the Google I/O keynote to discuss Google's popular mapping system. He reviewed the history of Google Maps, discussing the failures of early versions--such as not including much of the world in its initial launch--to more recent improvements. In particular, he pointed out that Google maps now covers 200 countries--the latest is North Korea, built largely on people in the country submitting their own data via Google's Map Maker tool.
McClendon stressed the importance of data to Google Maps, pointing out that the company has some of the largest and most thorough data sets available. In particular, he pointed out that the company has 40 million precise geocodes of local businesses, 50 billion kilometers of turn-by-turn directions, more than 1 million transit stops, and 50 countries of Street View data.
That was the first--and perhaps least pointed--of the shots against competitor Apple, whose Maps relaunch notably ran into problems last year. But despite its lead, Google isn't standing still on Maps: The company showed off a completely new experience for one of its most popular services.
On the go
Google Maps's revamped mobile experience was first in the spotlight. In demonstrating improvements to the mobile app, Google Maps director Daniel Graf drew particular attention to last year's launch of Google Maps on the iPhone, calling it a "tremendous success." In another dig at the Cupertino rivals, Graf said the app had been described as "sleek, simple, beautiful, and--let's not forget--accurate."
Many of the improvements to the mobile app revolve around social aspects. For example, Google has revamped the rating system on points of interest: There's now a five-point rating scale that will be shared across all of Google Maps's experience, regardless of whether it's used in a browser or on a mobile device. In addition to the user reviews you've seen in the past, you'll also get reviews from your friends on Google+. And integration with Zagat, the famed restaurant reviews that Google purchased, now lives on its own section, which you can access by tapping on a badge.
Google is also more tightly integrating Maps with its other services: Google Offers now has a new interface, and will display a badge on locations that have some sort of deal. In a demo, Graf showed off a deal from Starbucks, for half-off of a new drink; offers can be saved for later. The company will launch with a number of partners, with more to come in the future.
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