Michael Jones, the chief technology officer of Google Maps, gave the Map World Forum in Hyderabad some insight into the thinking that is driving the development of the company. He said the company's mission was to geographically enable all the world's information. Jones explained that this is different from having maps of the world. It is about providing an appropriate geographic context for the world's information.
It appears then, that the Google Maps phenomenon is not aimed at establishing a new revenue stream for the company, but is really just an extension of its current model.
Industry fears that mission critical applications that include maps from Google might suddenly include advertising, are misplaced, it would seem.
Today, Google makes money from advertising on its site. It provides a search service to users - and because it attracts so many, advertisers pay for exposure to them.
Since the advertising presence is carefully constructed, most users are not even aware that they are part of a financial transaction.
The point of Google Maps is merely to provide a better geographic context for this advertising.
Jones instanced a user in need of a pizza. It's difficult to provide a useful internet search for a pizza parlour unless one can put its address in a geographic context. Google Maps already does this in many parts of the world. Maps now exist for Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok.
The difficult task is to extend this to the entire world. Jones says an adequate gazetteer does not exist.
Imagery is less of a problem, he said. Recently, the company signed an agreement with Spot Image in France, which gives the company access to around 50,000 square kilometres of Europe at 2.5 metre resolution.
It is on the public record that Google has also signed contracts with major data providers in many territories to extend its range of street maps. However, this is slow and expensive.
At the conference, Jones displayed maps of Hyderabad. He said these maps belonged to Google, intimating the company was generating its own maps.
However, he would not elaborate further.