Google Inc. (GOOG:US) is overhauling its mapping service with quicker navigation, more personalized information and updated look and feel as the search provider keeps up pressure on Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US) and Apple Inc. (AAPL:US)
The new service, which is still in preview mode, aims to put more information on the maps, eliminating extra clicks needed to dig up information on a business or seek the quickest route to a destination, according to Jonah Jones, lead designer at Google Maps.
A central feature for smartphones, mapping applications have become a key tool for software and hardware makers seeking to attract more users. Apple introduced its own maps app in September to replace one that relied on Google’s data. Following poor reviews of Apple’s product, Google rolled out its own version that’s become popular with iPhone users.
“We’re making everything more integrated and easier to find and easier to use,” Jones said before Google’s annual developers conference in San Francisco, where the company unveiled the new service. “This is as big an upgrade as when Google Maps first launched.”
As users interact with the new version, it provides more context and recommendations, whether that’s a particular restaurant or museum, he said. Google’s preview of Maps is tailored for the desktop and not yet mobile, according to Jones. Still, as the service develops, the new version should be available across all platforms, Jones said.
The upgraded Google Maps, which also competes with a Microsoft desktop version, will let users quickly zoom into a location without running into fuzzy images, thanks to technology that renders the map repeatedly, depending on the speed of the browser. The updates will include integration with the Google Earth application as well, giving detailed views of sites around the world without having to leave Maps.
The Mountain View, California-based company will continue to deliver advertising via the service, enabling coffee shops and mechanics to highlight their services when users search on the maps, Jones said.
“We really want to make the ad experience a positive one,” he said.
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