For years, Google Maps has been synonymous with “online maps.” Although Microsoft launched its own mapping service, Bing Maps, in 2010, it was nearly five years after Google Maps launched its first stable release and well after Google’s service had established itself as the foremost source for online geography and directions. Any service and app incorporating any type of geotagging or mapping feature utilized Google Maps’ services.
In earnest, it would be hard to imagine Microsoft being capable of edging out even a corner of the online maps market at this point. Short of creating a living, breathing four-dimensional microcosmic digi-globe projection that includes real-time weather systems, volcano activity, transportation data, and virtual birthday parties everyday, Microsoft would seem to be relegated to simply arriving too late after Google established its dominance among map services.
Yet, incredibly, Microsoft appears to be making significant gains in the online map market but not by re-inventing the map. It’s banking on the user- and developer-friendly open source map service, OpenStreetMap, to undermine Google Maps’ dominance. So far, it appears that strategy might be working.
OpenStreetMap has attracted some high-profile company lately. Many companies have been defecting from Google’s service in favor of OpenStreetMap due to the high cost of using Google Maps. Earlier this month, foursquare, a company that relies pretty heavily on geotagging in order to check in at locations, abandoned Google Maps in favor of the OpenStreetMap-powered MapBox and, later, Apple quietly made the switch to OpenStreetMap with the debut of iPhoto for iOS.
So what’s all this have to do with Microsoft? It so happens that the company not only hired OpenStreetMap founder Steve Coast to lead the development of Bing Maps but, according to the New York Times, Microsoft’s also been opening up its archive of map data for use by OpenStreetMap.
As more partnered companies leave Google Maps in favor of alternatives like OpenStreetMap, that’s charted territory in the online map market that’s relinquished by Google Maps and Microsoft undoubtedly stands to gain from the market shift. While Bing Maps may not be able to claim dominance the way Google Maps has enjoyed these past several years, Microsoft could absolutely break apart Google’s monopoly in a way that repartitions the market much more evenly.
(Via Business Insider.)