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Google Starts Charging for Maps, What's Next?

Last week, Google started charging for enterprise access to Google Maps meaning that with enough use, users could face huge fees to access Google Map’s API.

In this case, some heavy users (including Apple and Foursquare) have opted for an open-source product called OpenStreetMap. “Is that as good as an app that uses billions of dollars in digital mapping technology?” reports NBC4. “Oh, hell no.”

What happened to free?

Digital Trends explains the “price of free”: “It’s important to note that of all the major digital map-makers, only Google was offering access to its maps for free. Firms like Navteq and TeleNav recoup their investments by sell their mapping services to third parties — Navteq powers Garmin GPS units and Bing Maps, for example; TeleNav sells its own GPS and powers things like MyTouch Ford in-vehicle systems. Google, however, chose to zig instead of zag: It offered its digital mapping services for free to essentially anybody who wanted them. The idea was to make Google’s online mapping service a de facto standard for digital maps on the Web and in mobile devices. Once Google had established a serious presence in the digital mapping marketplace, it would figure out a way to monetize the service.

Google’s monopolist roadmap?

  1. Use Google’s huge search advertising revenues to subsidize the development and use of other Google products – in this case Maps.
  2. Offer it for free, undercutting other companies’ ability to compete on a product’s merits (who else can afford to offer this product for free?) or recoup their investment in innovation.
  3. Make users and partners dependent on your software.
  4. Handicap other offerings by preferencing your own product and/or handicapping competitive threats (in this case, Google contractors were purposefully modifying OpenStreetMaps with misinformation), “switching the direction of one-way streets, for example,” TPMIdeaLab reports.
  5. Impose high prices when partners are already heavily invested with the Google offering.

Which products are next?

Google has started charging for Analytics and has been working very hard to get small businesses hooked on a full suite of Google products.

What about when Google looks to charge everyday consumers for the use of products like Gmail, Google Docs or Picasa?