In a move seemingly designed to poke Apple in the ribs just as the latter wrestles with improving its mapping abilities, Google is rolling out a massive updates to its Street View for Google Maps.
“Today we’re making our Street View coverage more comprehensive than ever before by launching our biggest ever update,” read an Oct. 11 note on Google’s Lat Long blog, “doubling our number of special collections and updating over 250,000 miles of roads around the world.” That means added Street View coverage not only within the U.S., but a wide range of countries including Taiwan, Denmark, Norway, Canada, and Thailand. In addition, Google has launched “Special Collections” portfolios in South Africa, Japan, Spain, and other countries.
Google’s Maps are built atop extensive databases assembled by thousands of employees over multiple years, placing it in an enviable position among digital cartographers. Indeed, few companies can match its IT infrastructure in that regard: Nokia has made significant investments in its own digital mapping abilities, fueled in large part by the $8 billion purchase of Navteq and a stready flood of GPS data from FedEx and UPS, but other companies would be hard-pressed to replicate such gigantic efforts.
And yet replicate those efforts—if not surpass them entirely—is something Apple’s trying to do right now with its iOS 6 Maps app. In a bid to create a robust collection of maps, Apple reportedly acquired a number of independent mapping firms including C3 Technologies, a builder of 3D maps, and Canadian mapping firm Poly9.
Public reception to Apple’s Maps app, though, demonstrated the difficulties often inherent in building an acceptable platform. Within hours of iOS 6 being broadly available, users began complaining of inaccurate roads and disappearing landmarks. (Although it must be added that maps issues didn’t stop more than 100 million iOS users from downloading iOS 6 soon after its release.)
Eventually, Apple CEO Tim Cook posted a contrite apology on Apple’s Website. “We strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible for our customers,” he wrote, adding: “With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short of that commitment.”
As Apple races to bulk up its mapping abilities, Google continues adding onto an already extensive platform. The race of the Truly Massive Databases is on, and the search-engine giant shows little sign of wanting to give up its enormous head start.