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The only Waze is Google: Ad giant tipped to gobble map app 'for $1.3bn'

Pac-Man-satnav-ish upstart in bidding war with Apple, Facebook

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Crowd-sourced map app maker Waze has apparently accepted a billion-dollar buyout from Google - ending months of speculation about who was going to end up with the Israeli firm.

Apple and Facebook have both been sniffing around Waze, which draws upon the movements of its 50 million users to generate live traffic information and improve its satnav-like directions. Israeli business rag Globes now reports Google has plunked $1.3bn (£837m) on the table along with an agreement to keep development in Israel.

Globes reckons that agreement was critical as Facebook had refused to guarantee its employees in Israel would stay on the payroll, but Google has programming teams in the country so that wasn't a problem for the Android giant - which has its own Google Maps service.

Waze launched in 2009, littering its maps with Pac-Mac-like pellets to encourage exploration by its users. The maps even feature cherries and other virtual bonuses on little-used roads, which users can collect to increase their status while confirming that those pathways do indeed exist and are usable.

Traffic congestion is equally mapped in real time by volunteers pleased to help the community effort with the happy side effect of turning Waze founders into multimillionaires.

Waze never had a business model as such, the long term plan was always to be bought so the purchase comes as no surprise. Apple was reportedly interested in the company back in January, followed by Facebook which apparently offered more cash but has now (assuming Globes' sources are correct) been outbid by the Googleplex.

Map software is a commodity product these days. Google touts its satnav-like service to web-connected desktops and handhelds, but Nokia's map software for smartphones works when your internet connectivity is unavailable. Both are competing to make money from local advertisers who need prominent placements on maps to make a living, so differentiation is important.

Waze offers nothing more than the text messages sent by people stuck in traffic to local radio stations for the DJs to read out, only without the prattling Alan Partridge-types or requirement for the driver to know which road they'll be using. How to make that worth $1.3bn is for Google to ponder. ®

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