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Google Maps Learns to Multitask

By Peter Suciu
Oct 10, 2013 4:58 PM PT

Google Maps has become the default source of directions for many users, but one feature it has notoriously lacked is the ability to provide directions to multiple destinations. On Wednesday, however, the company announced that it is now rolling out the feature at last.

Google Maps Learns to Multitask

"Based on your input, we're pleased to announce one of your most requested features -- directions for multiple destinations -- will begin rolling out today," said Florian Goerisch, product manager for Google Maps. "Whether you're running weekend errands or planning a cross-country tour, you can plot multiple destinations for your trip with ease -- now available for driving, walking and biking directions."

To get directions for a trip with multiple destinations, users simply create a starting point and click to add stops along the way.

Help With Reservations

"The new version of Google Maps is still, well, new," Lauren Barriere, a Google spokesperson, told TechNewsWorld. "We've been working hard to improve maps since we first announced the preview in May, with the newest addition of directions to multiple destinations.

"We'll continue to bring both familiar features and brand new ones to the new Maps over time," Barriere added.

Also new in the Google Maps update are new tools to help users manage their reservations and discover upcoming events. The reservation tool, for instance, is designed to work as it does in Google Search, pulling information from users' Gmail, Google Calendar and Google+ accounts.

Google first previewed its new features at its annual I/O developer conference earlier this year.

'More Complex Than People Think'

It isn't clear why the multiple-destinations feature wasn't available from Google Maps before, but "I think we're seeing some additions that come from their purchase of Waze and its technology," suggested Chris Silva, principal analyst at High Rock Strategy.

"Google is good at knowing when to bring the product to market," Silva told TechNewsWorld. "It could be that the multiple destinations were hampered in some algorithmic way. This technology is probably a lot more complex than people think -- directions that take you way out of the way because the computer program thinks it is better won't make for a good product."

Google's incremental additions are also "just the nature of their approach," opined Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "They decided to keep the product simple at first and assure it worked, then added features.

"Given the Apple issues with mapping, this appears to be a very wise approach after the fact," Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

'The Attention Span of a Gnat'

Of course, Google also needs to remain competitive across platforms in the long run, Silva noted, so it can't made the technology overly complicated.

"This is technology for them that is a gateway to get users to use Gmail and even Chrome," he explained. "So it is a Trojan horse for them, and they could lose that entryway if they make it too complex."

Too-frequent change could be another problem.

"Google has the attention span of a gnat, and their advantage is they can afford to give this stuff away for free," Enderle said. "They aren't the best -- they are the cheapest."

Looking ahead, he concluded, "they could be displaced by another embedded product showing up in more popular hardware or another free offering that had a sustainable advantage and more focus/funding by the provider."

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