Google Latitude arrives to rip the arse out of mobile location services

I did a call on Twitter for 140 character (or more) immediate reactions to Google’s modification to Google Maps. The new feature, Latitude, is a setting on the menu of Google Maps 3.0 available for download today. Now you can see your Google friends visually on Google Maps. It works rather well and the ramifications of the introduction are rather, rather huge.

Here’s a few screenshots:
Screenshot0023

Me approving Rax’s addition to my Latitude friends:
Screenshot0022

Here’s some of my friends:
Screenshot0025

When I quit Google Maps, I now get the option to continue to share my location information in the background. Nice.
Screenshot0026

Download it for your S60, Windows Mobile or J2ME device today at www.google.com/latitude. (Android and iPhone are coming soon).

Now, to the opinions and perspective. Some have delivered 140 characters (a Tweet’s worth) of viewpoint whilst others emailed me expanded viewpoints. If you’ve got a viewpoint you’d like included — drop it in an email to me right-away at ewan@mobileindustryreview.com or Tweet it to me at @ew4n and I’ll update.

Andrew Grill
Mobile Advertising Supremo
Once again Google ups the location ante with Latitude as the natural next step for them and will help sell location to the masses as cool (See Andrew’s post on the subject)

Dennis Bournique
Wap Review
Google’s foray into the mobile friend tracking arena will be huge with 100 million Gmail users one click away from using it. (Check out the post Dennis just made about Latitude).

Kerry Ritz
CEO, Palringo
Google Latitude is almost as useful as Palringo Local. We just to need launch our API 🙂

Stéphane Delbecque
Mobile Enthusiast (LinkedIn)
Ew4n I imagine Loopt is scared with Google Latitude being released. Will Yahoo! Fireagle be the next one?

Josh Russell
Webapp and next-gen WiMax Infrastructure Entrepreneur Josh Russell
Google hasn’t yet got it’s “friends” strategy organised, at least not publicly. I’m sure behind the scenes they’re very much aware of who our friends are, but for now, this is either not useful, or a tool for google to create those relationships. for google, all data is good, they’ll figure it out later. Google turns data into information, who it shares it with and to what level of detail is the business plan mystery that makes them what they are 🙂 I’d speculate that Jyri of Jaiku might have something to do with this? Jaiku’s plan was to provide a live view of your contacts and allow you to do the most common tasks that you would do with your friends. No doubt they would have moved into location based services, anything that would have kept users in jaiku rather than dropping down into your phones standard OS, Jaiku was essentially making a play for the majority of the mobile attention economy.

iPhone? Well there are a few other apps on that platform. google isn’t worried, it has users.

Fireeagle? Well that’s Yahoo. Characteristically, their approach is to take a step back and create a backend framework, service as an API. It’s not a consideration for Google because it involves giving data away.

Dan Lane
Technical Contributor, Mobile Industry Review & Howler Tech
Does what it says on the tin, bit rough around edges. Hope they do machine readable feeds soon. Shame for similar services like BuddyPing!

Ben Smith
MIR Contributor & MIR Show presenter
Very positive – smart UI like iPhone, customisation options of S60. Modern & open. OTA links with Google services a killer feature.

David Carrington
Founder, Dabr
My new opinion, based on 2 minutes of Windows Mobile testing is that I Love the integration into standard Google Maps app. It has detected I’m in Maidenhead, but shows me just South of Togo (Africa) – which is probably the GPS coords 0,0. Seeing everyone else in London etc looks good though. Aha, and now it finally knows I’m in Maidenhead. Looking forward to real G1 support.

James Cooper
Mjelly
My first thought was “Goodbye Loopt” – they have raised $15m in funding and spent three years trying to get operator carriage deals for their location based social network with little real traction – along comes Google with Latitude and bam! – They’re finished!

Nihal Mehta
CEO, Buzzd

1) More attention in the space (good) — puts pressure on Microsoft, AOL, IAC, Nokia, RIM etc to either build or buy similar plans in the near term.
2) More of an issue for Loopt/Whrrl/Brightkite than for us since its based on the map interface and is about finding people
3) Google’s internal d2c efforts have been lukewarm at best, they have recently built and then acquired realizing they can’t build as good as someone else (eg goog video, then acquired youtube). Needless to say, they already have a significant install base so let’s hope they can leverage that and really give Loopt a run for their money.

Overall I’m happy since it brings serious attention to the space and could possibly make Loopt/Whrrl extinct unless they evolve their feature set asap.

Justin Davies
Co-Founder of NinetyTen
I downloaded it today on my blackberry, and I really like the simplicity of it. I think Google extending the use of location on the mobile is very exciting. It will be interesting to see how Latitude is used when it is released for the iPhone, and whether Google will open up the system into more networks.

Mr Operator
Senior Industry Insider — anonymous (See our Mr Operator features)
Complete surprise. Impressive gamechanger. Loopt/FireEagle now irrelevant. Add GTalk IM support, on J2ME devices, and it’s a killer.

Ewan Spence
Mobile Genius, All About Symbian
Its a very nice feature — but asking me what I think of Google Latitude is rather like asking me what I think of the ‘settings’ on an application menu. Latitude isn’t standalone. It’s one of the bullet points added to Google Maps 3.0. There’s also quite a lot of PR spin going on. Google Maps is just a little bit better.

This is something Google have been doing for a while — minor tweaks regularly. If they’d released this feature in Google Maps two years ago we’d all have been blown away. But they’ve delivered a slow, precise, managed increase in feature set over the years. First maps, then maps with satellite view. Then the ‘my location’ feature. Now you can see where your friends are — and share your own location.

We’ll need to wait, what, 6 months until an API appears — so expect slow and measured progress. That is, of course, assuming Google knows what they’re doing. This is from a company who’s bought and effectively closed down Jaiku, Dodgeball and so on. They’ve turned these mobile acquisitions into menu entries!

Or, looking at it in another way, boiled them down and condensed their brilliant features into a menu entry.

Broadly speaking it’s good news. It’s whitelist — so if I give you permission to see my location, I don’t automatically see your location — and you’ve got varying degrees of privacy (e.g. just show my city).

Google’s going to continue to build up even more information about users — the walk-about data that they gain from Latitude will undoubtedly be valuable. And remember that the UK/European data protection acts don’t apply with Google. The data can be used for good and ‘evil’.

I also note the increased focus on pulling in users and building up traffic. Nokia have been doing this with Ovi, Apple with their App Store — the new currency is not handset sales or churn. With the networks relegated to ‘pipe mode’, it’s all about how many users you can get using your service — and Google Maps 3.0 looks like a winner in that regard.

But this is going to seriously impact the venture capital community. Take Loopt for example. What is it? 15 million dollars worth of investment and Google just made it free.

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17 Responses to Google Latitude arrives to rip the arse out of mobile location services

  1. james (mjelly) February 4, 2009 at 7:07 pm #

    Google doesn't necessarily dominate everything in mobile – admob has fended them off very nicely … Loopt made a big mistake trying to do everything through the operators – carriage deal by carriage deal – you still can't download it outside of the US …

  2. steveprocter February 5, 2009 at 12:00 am #

    So will this allow employers to discover that all their employees aren't actual at home due to difficulty getting in to work because of snow; but are actually moving at speed down the side of the snow covered hill 2 miles from their home 😉

  3. steveprocter February 5, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    as an aside, I heard that Google are about to launch Google Brother 1.0, a new suite of applications for your mobile phone. Apparently the first application is called Thinkpol and it permanently open up the mobile's microphone to be in stealth listening mode. It can then for example send an sms to the authorities if it picks up any Carol Thatcher style mutterings about anything it deems to be potitically incorrect. My sources tell me that the BBC are being considered for running the new Thinkpol department.

    They will then be combining Google Brother applications to get real added value. So Thinkpol and Latitude will allow you to say “ooh you are sexy” when you are found to be in the general vicinity of your home and your wife's googlebrother phone is within 20 yards of yours. But if you are in the Soho area of London it will again send a warning sms to Thinkpol.

    All clever stuff hey 😉

  4. jonmulholland February 5, 2009 at 12:49 am #

    I agree with Josh – Latitude has Jaiku all over it (http://bit.ly/3B7xVm). One point I would add though is that Google is actually quite well developed with it's 'friend strategy', it just hasn't been applied to mobile… yet. Google Friend Connect and the Google Social Graph API provide a very though way of linking online social relationships to Google Accounts – relationships from Twitter, Blogs, Flickr and any other web site using a simple line of XFN are easily identified.

    I always thought the 'Google announces plan to destroy all information it can't index story on the Onion was satire, not so sure now – http://www.theonion.com/content/node/40076

  5. Ewan @ MIR February 5, 2009 at 5:53 am #

    That's going to be a serious issue

  6. Mark February 5, 2009 at 6:32 am #

    This is a fantastic implementation of google maps and LBS but I'm a bit shocked that I can go back in to the app and not need a password to see the locations of my friends…

    What happens if I lose my phone…? I wouldn't like someone to know where my girlfriend is or that my niece is at school etc

    Why didn't they make the latitatue menu option password controlled, or am I missing something?

  7. Ewan @ MIR February 5, 2009 at 6:34 am #

    Very interesting thought, Mark…

  8. Mike42 February 5, 2009 at 6:46 am #

    If you change your Google password the Latitude function logs out.

  9. Mac Morrison February 5, 2009 at 6:54 am #

    no its not because you dont share your position with everyone. only people you choose to. and even then you can not share – or manually put yourself in the south pole.

  10. Mac Morrison February 5, 2009 at 6:58 am #

    It's all a bit cludgy and useless at the moment.
    There's no clear purpose or ability to use it for anything.
    But i suspect it will start adding features.
    nothing we haven't seen before, but its google so it's got reach.

    People are tetchy about location services – from the daily mail fear style comments abound

  11. Mark February 5, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    Ehh, I am missing something…!

    You can sign in and sign out of latitude but I didn’t see that initially. I would have thought quitting the app and not selecting to continue to update my location would have signed me out automatically…

    That may catch a few people out !

  12. nokiahotspot February 6, 2009 at 1:00 am #

    Hi nice post If you don't mind I will translate it to Hebrew
    on my blog at nokiahotspot.wordpress.com in 1-2 days

  13. meeting rooms February 6, 2009 at 5:07 pm #

    Let’s see it this way. It would be kind of cool for figuring out where your friends are at. How cool would it be to be taking a taxi in NYC, check your phone and see your friends are in a bar just up the street, stop in and join them! Sweet

    I think you can cloak your location if you do not want others to see your location, i.e.. if you are studying for an exam or on a date with someone else! Bad!

  14. meeting rooms February 6, 2009 at 5:07 pm #

    Let’s see it this way. It would be kind of cool for figuring out where your friends are at. How cool would it be to be taking a taxi in NYC, check your phone and see your friends are in a bar just up the street, stop in and join them! Sweet

    I think you can cloak your location if you do not want others to see your location, i.e.. if you are studying for an exam or on a date with someone else! Bad!

  15. BA February 22, 2009 at 2:44 am #

    Why on earth it is so ineficient. Not only the latitude thing is buggy slow and has several issues , it is also messing with existing google maps functinoality. To see my list of recomendation and review, please see my blog at http://www.basitali.com

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. SimonFord - February 4, 2009

    Google Latitude arrives to rip the arse out of mobile location …: 4) Potential for Buzzd to integrate with Goo.. http://tinyurl.com/bt2obn

  2. SimonFord - February 4, 2009

    Google Latitude arrives to rip the arse out of mobile location …: 4) Potential for Buzzd to integrate with Goo.. http://tinyurl.com/bt2obn

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