Because "war" is the metaphor business journalists like to use for competition and almost everything else. . . welcome to "Map Wars." (Cue John Williams' music.)
According to Battelle and SiliconValleyWatcher, Google is going to "A9" its mapping but with laser-generated 3-D imagery. (I use "A9" as a verb to mean drive trucks around and map streets at the storefront level.)
It's pretty clear that online 3-D imagery is where online mapping in some fashion will eventually go. But, if accurate, this report suggests that will be a 2006 reality.
Mapping is a standout consumer favorite and has become an alternative doorway into local search. It is also becoming a heated area of competition among the engines and big portals: Google, Yahoo!, AOL and MSN.
According to a survey by Pew:
The single activity where Internet use outweighs the offline choice illustrates the value of two important Internet advantages: its efficiency and a virtually limitless database. A full 87% of Internet users look for maps or driving directions online, and they choose the online mode over offline mode in every measure taken.
We've only started to see the potential of maps in terms of product development and monetization.
And to those skeptics who would dismiss what Google has done with its graphical interface as mere "bells and whistles," read this. It goes to usability as much as aesthetics; but aesthetics do matter, it turns out.