Turn Right at Gate 14: Google Maps Adds Floor Plans for Airports, Stores
Google (GOOG) is solving a problem that many of us have, but that of few us suspected would be dealt with by a smartphone: It's taking its popular mapping platform indoors with interior floor plans of select buildings.
Several retailers and more than a dozen of the country's busiest airports are among the first venues to provide Google with their floor plans. In other words, not only can you get from your home to the airport or the local IKEA, but Google will also steer you to the right terminal at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, or to the exact aisle in IKEA to find that dresser you're looking for.
Obviously Google isn't generating this information from its satellite images. It's not sending camera-topped cars through the aisles of your suburban Home Depot (HD). Google is asking companies and building owners to submit their multi-level blueprints so the search engine giant can nail the final mile of mapping.
Siri-ously Raising the Stakes
Welcome to the bar-raising features war, folks.
You don't think that this is a coincidence, do you? Just a few weeks after Apple (AAPL) turns heads with its Siri digital assistant on the new iPhone 4S, Google rolls out a nifty feature that for now is only being promoted for Android devices.
Apple's iOS and Google's Android are now out to out-tomorrow one another. A few months ago, no one fathomed that simply telling your phone that you were locked out of your house would result in a quick search of local locksmiths -- with customer reviews no less. In a few months, new smartphone buyers will wonder how you ever got around after your mapping application left you in a destination's parking lot.
There's plenty worth fighting for here. Google's open-source platform has been gaining smartphone market share, even at Apple's expense. Investors will point out that Apple is the one making the lion's share of the profits in this space, but Google is more interested in growing its reach than fattening up its bottom line.
More Than Just a Two-Platform Race
If you think that Apple and Google have rolled out some pretty slick innovations, let's see what Microsoft (MSFT) has up its sleeve. If it's willing to pay billions to Nokia (NOK) to champion its mobile operating system revival, one can only imagine how it will try to differentiate itself from the growing enhancements being offered on the two platforms of choice.
Let's also not dismiss Research In Motion (RIMM). Many in the industry have been leaving it for dead, but there are still 70 million BlackBerry owners out there and RIM is as hungry as ever to prove that it still deserves a seat at the big smartphone maker table.
Either way, the battle for better features is a major win for consumers. Whether your next phone is an iPhone, an Android, or something else, odds are that it will impress a lot of people -- including yourself.
Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Microsoft, Google, and The Home Depot. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple.