Google upgrades its own Maps

Apple might not be using Google’s map technology anymore, but the search giant is not about to stop improving the product.

New technology and a small army of photographers are bringing 3D fly-over views to Google Maps. (Source: Google)

Google says that maps are the most popular feature on smartphones. Over 95% of smartphone owners use them. Up to now, this is territory Google has owned in the mobile space. Now, Apple wants a piece of the action with its own new Maps application living natively on iOS devices. (See the recent GraphicSpeak article, “A series of not-so-huge Apple announcements.”)

Google isn’t going to cede its advan­tage to Apple. Google recently announced new features for Google Maps, just before Apple announced it would no longer favor Google Maps. New features for Google Maps include the ability to download portions of city maps so the information can be accessed offline. There is additional 3D content to bring Google Maps up to parity to Apple’s map product, including improved 3D for city fly-over views. Google has a fleet of airplanes flying over cities in grid patterns to get pho­tos from all angles to create 3D models. Google is also increasing its coverage of less-developed areas using backpacks, snowmobiles, sherpas, and canoes—whatever it takes to get the information and bring Street View to mountains and rain forests.

In other news, Google announced the acquisition of mobile veteran Quickoffice. The com­pany builds applications for working with Microsoft Office documents across platforms. It goes back to the days of the Palm Pilot. It has one of the best con­version capabilities for Windows Office documents and supports iOS, Android, and Symbian. Quickoffice says it has been installed on over 300,000 devices. This keeps Google in the game as far as dealing with documents as even ARM-based tablets go native Windows with the coming of Windows 8. (See the GraphicSpeak article, “Can Microsoft Surface win a me-too tablet war?