Ways to the Waze - A Sticky Buy

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TechCrunch reports that Apple may be interested in buying social navigation (and Israeli startup) Waze.

None of this is surprising; if I were advising Waze (which I am not), I would have looked to Apple as a prime suitor. There area  few key reasons for this:

  1. Apple needs a mapping win. After the debacle of iOS Maps, followed by the wild success of Google Maps for iOS, has their executives fuming, it desperately needs a win in the mobile Maps space. Waze is very successful and popular.
  2. Waze has something that neither Google nor Apple has: millions of inputs. Waze actually tracks the location and speed of the moving vehicle, and uses it as an input into its calculation of traffic-based routing.
  3. Waze is very sticky.

I think the last point is very important. As I noted in the previous post, Google has always been worried about the lack of stickiness in its search model since the beginning. Gmail was (and remains) a way to get users "stuck" on Google services.

Waze is sticky; it has a very strong network effect. The data is driven not by cameras or reports, but by millions of actual apps moving along roads and reporting in.

Apple execs must be looking at the Google suite on iOS: Gmail, Search with voice, Google Maps, Chrome, and worry users will say, "well, if everything on my iPhone is Google, might as well have my next phone be an Android." I suspect this is the prime reason iMessage remains closed to non-Apple platforms.

In this world, Apple probably views Waze as a win-win-win: popular maps, good data, very sticky.

We will see where it goes... but if Apple moves, look for a potential bidding war with Google.