Internet News has published a story by Nicholas Carlson called “Commercializing the World, Google Style“. In the story he quotes John Hanke, former CEO of Keyhole and now the general manager of Google Earth, about his vision of Google Earth. The quotes have to do with the evolution of the product while it was still Keyhole and how even he was surprised at how “people had begun to collaboratively figure out” new ways to use the application. I don’t believe Carlson was able to get new quotes from Hanke in this article. Google, as a public company, is very careful about making statements about its business strategy. None of the Hanke quotes talk about current of future strategy. Hanke is quoted about the costs for deploying all of this satellite photos and the huge bandwidth demands of GE: “It is really expensive to collect and provide all this data”.
So, what is the business model?
Carlson does get quotes from other businesses. He quotes Zillow.com as a “naysayer” who thinks Google Earth’s openness to allowing cultural content (i.e. non-business oriented content) is of no use to a business. Of course, Zillow.com has a business alliance with Microsoft – so what do you expect? He also quotes Tim Hibbard (of “Where’s Tim?” fame) who has built a way to allow people to track his movements with his GPS phone using Google Earth/Maps. His employer is a GPS tracking company and the publicity from the tracking site has enabled his business to grow.
Some interesting speculation in the article, but nothing really new. Read some of my thoughts back in August about business opportunities surrounding GE. There have been a few notable revenue generating changes at Google in the last few months: 1) Google bought SketchUp which had its own profitable revenue stream; 2) Google has made some joint marketing content pushes like National Geographics, Discovery Channel, and Las Vegas; and 3) ads have been deployed in Google Earth. In my opinion, Google has only scratched the surface on the possibilities for monetizing Google Earth and Maps. If they are smart, and Google has a lot of smart people, they have been working on these possibilities. One thing is for sure, Microsoft has definitely been working on new things to compete with Google Earth/Maps. I expect the next few months are going to be very interesting in the way of new software releases.