Google has expanded its licensing agreement with digital map provider Tele Atlas under undisclosed financial terms. The new license covers the entire range of Google's map-related services, from Google Maps and Google Earth services to newer applications that are expected to play lead roles on Google's Android mobile platform.
The five-year agreement also gives Tele Atlas access to edits for its maps from Google's community of users, whose suggested changes can help the company further increase the quality and richness of Tele Atlas maps. Tele Atlas CEO Bill Henry said the deal was important because it would give Tele Atlas "access to input from a significant online community of map users, whose feedback can help us keep our maps fresh and accurate."
Pause For Thought
From Google's perspective, the new licensing agreement will provide the search-engine giant with guaranteed access to Tele Atlas maps and dynamic content in more than 200 countries around the world. And it will no longer have to rely on getting data from digital mapmaker Navteq, which is in the process of being acquired by rival Nokia.
Nokia's recent relaunch of the Symbian mobile operating system as a free open-source rival to Google Android must have given the search-engine giant pause for thought, noted IDC Mobility Research Director Shiv Bakhshi. "It makes perfect sense for Google to sign on with a competing source, because it doesn't want its future to be circumscribed by a competitor," Bakhshi said.
By repositioning Symbian, Nokia will also be able compete for free, Bakhshi noted. "So it is a fight in a marketplace where Android no longer has any price advantage."
Mapping data is without doubt a major part of Google's plans for Android, Bakhshi noted. Following the launch of Google's first Android Developer Challenge last May, Android team member Eric Chu noted that many of the top submissions took advantage of the Geo-location and social-networking capabilities of the Android mobile platform.
"These applications allow friends to share their personal experiences and favorite content such as vacations, photos, shows, music, cooking recipes, restaurants and much more as they relate to certain locales," Chu said.
Location is going to be "absolutely critical" for all mobile services -- not only those based on location, but also for other services that intend to infuse location capabilities, Bakhshi said. "It is a very critical element, otherwise Nokia would not have bid $8.1 billion for Navteq," he added.
The TomTom Factor
Google may also benefit from the future plans of navigation-device maker TomTom, which purchased Tele Atlas for $4.6 billion in a deal announced late last year. TomTom currently holds 99.29 percent of the ordinary shares in Tele Atlas and recently announced that Tele Atlas shares will no longer be traded by late July.
Google's wide range of location capabilities, when combined with TomTom's data contribution, is expected to provide Tele Atlas customers with access to a full range of services once the acquisition closes.
"TomTom has developed unique technologies to collect and process map-related data from our user base of over 15 million GPS navigation devices," TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn said earlier this year. "This information will be delivered to Tele Atlas after the proposed merger to allow Tele Atlas to substantially improve its map creation, enrichment and maintenance process."