Google ended months of speculation today when it announced that it has acquired Waze in a deal reported to be worth $1 billion. Google said it plans to integrate Waze’s crowdsourced traffic information with its own Maps offering, but added that “Nothing practical will change here at Waze,” which will operate separately “for now.”
As my colleague Mathew Ingram writes, Waze’s rapidly growing base of 50 million users in 110 countries shared nearly 90 million reports of traffic-related information through the app last year. So Google’s pick-up is a lost opportunity for Apple and Facebook, both of which were rumored to be eyeing the Israel-based company. But this is especially bad news for Apple, which continues to struggle with its own Maps launching the error-plagued offering nearly a year ago. Maps are an essential part of any modern mobile operating system, and building a quality product takes an enormous amount of time and money. Google’s move to take Waze off the table may have eliminated Apple’s best chance to catch up in a big hurry.