Waze, the popular GPS and social app, has been courted by many top tech firms lately. Apple was said to have made an offer of around $500 million, which was later denied by Tim Cook. Facebook and Google have reportedly been in a bidding war of sorts, with Facebook having recently pulled out of negotiations. The turning point for Facebook was their desire to move the Israel-based Waze team to their headquarters in California, and Waze CEO’s Naom Bardin refusal to do so.
This, in turn, leaves Google as the only real suitor. Google has teams all over the world, including Israel, so having them close to home is of no concern. They are reportedly set to purchase Waze for $1.3 billion, a huge price tag with some real upside.
Google is leading a huge shift toward contextual data, and Waze is just that.
Waze is a direct competitor to Google in many ways, and outdoes them in a few others. Waze relies on user signal feedback to create a real-time traffic picture, and user feedback on construction or police speed traps paint a detailed picture of your surroundings. While this clearly has the downside of wide adoption in your area, Google doesn’t have that problem. Far more people use Google Maps than Waze for navigation, so implementing it into Maps would be instantly successful.
Waze also has a friend finder function, much like Google has inside of Maps when you make your location available to friends. Waze’s location sharing ties into social functionality, which would be great for Google as it relates to Hangouts.
Interestingly enough, Forbes reports that Google will allow Waze to operate independently until 2016. If true, that is a curious move. Perhaps there are other interests at stake for Waze, or Google is really interested in having them under the umbrella of services for other purposes. Waiting to implement Waze more intrinsically into Google Maps is odd, but should become more clear if Google purchases the company.
Google is leading a huge shift toward contextual data, and Waze is just that. Social, interactive, with GPS location tracking; you don’t get much more contextual than that.