In recent history, both Google and Microsoft have dominated the world of digital maps, and for the past five years, Apple has relied on Google maps to satisfy its mobile users increasing demand for map-based location and presence functionality.
Now, it appears that both Apple and Amazon are embracing this hard trend by launching their own mapping app that includes a social mapping focus. In Apple's case, their new map app will provide turn-by-turn navigation guides, real-time traffic information, and a "flyover" feature promising photo-realistic interactive 3D views. Apple is adding social functionality by integrating Yelp into their mapping app so that users can use Siri (Apple's popular voice activated virtual assistant) to access Yelp's social location-based functions including check-ins, without having to leave the map.
For those who are not familiar with Yelp, they are a social media website people used to find the best service providers, products, restaurants, etc. The site lists reviews of various types of businesses and a way to locate them. In 2010, Yelp introduced a check-in feature for mobile users as a way to help merchants build loyalty with customers.
With the new Apple map app, users will be able to communicate with each other through Yelp without exiting the map. In other words, when you're in the Apple map app, you can communicate to friends where you are and what you're doing using Yelp. Additionally, with the check-in feature, your friends can see where you are, and you can see where they are. In essence, it's making maps social by combining them with people, merchants, and events.
This alone is pretty neat, but I'm mentioning it here because I think it has some great business applications too. For example, suppose you're at a conference or convention. With a slight modification of this app, you could see where your colleagues are gathering, what meeting room they have decided to go to, and what breakout sessions they are attending.
Or maybe you could see that business colleagues are nearby and you could reach out to them, giving them a quick call or text to see if they want to get together for lunch. And if you notice that three or four colleagues are currently meeting somewhere, you could decide to stop by and join them.
There are definitely some business and personal applications for this map app, and I can see why Apple is teaming with Yelp on it. And while Apple is making their new map social, soon other companies who make smart phones will start teaming with different social media partners to embed social functionality into their maps in new and powerful ways.
And that brings us to Amazon. After watching Apple's iPad sales skyrocket, Amazon's Kindle ebook reader has evolved into a full-blown tablet computer, and it's not hard to see an Amazon smartphone on the horizon. With that said, it's easy to see why Amazon's acquisition of UpNext, a 3D-mapping start-up, would allow it to have it's own mapping app that could be used to drive new revenue sources. Will Amazon's map app have social functionality? The answer is yes, assuming Amazon doesn't want to keep following the competition in embracing this hard trend.
Transformation is upon us, and it's time to move beyond the usual location only maps and start thinking of how you and your company can create new products and services based on the growing hard trend of interactive, social, mobile maps.