Google, Facebook launch bidding war for Waze

Google may want crowd-sourced app or may just want to mess with Facebook, delaying its plans and boosting reported $1 billion price tag

Google is reportedly bidding for crowd-sourced map app provider Waze, igniting a possible bidding war with Facebook.

Citing unnamed sources, Businessweek today reported that Google is one of multiple companies negotiating to buy Waze, which is said to have a $1 billion price tag.

According to the report, Israel-based Waze is in talks with "multiple parties" concerning an acquisition, and is also considering whether to raise venture capital and remain independent.

Google did not respond to a request for comment on the report.

Earlier this month, Facebook was said to be negotiating to buy Waze, a popular crowd-sourced mapping and traffic app.

Facebook has long sought to beef up its offerings for mobile users.

At the time, Facebook declined comment on the report while Waze didn't respond to a request for comment.

Waze offers iOS- and Android-based based traffic and navigation apps. The tool lets users share real-time traffic information, including updates about construction, traffic jams, speed traps and accidents.

Waze lets Facebook users track friends who are driving to the same destination. "Coordinate everyone's arrival times when you pick up or meet up with friends," Waze says on its website.

Users can also share information about local gas prices, and direct Waze users to stations with the lowest prices.

Industry analysts are split on whether Google needs Waze to add social capabilities to its Maps app. Some speculate that Google is simply looking to delay the Facebook negotiations, and to boost the Waze price.

For instance, Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said Google's likely goal is to "disrupt the deal and force Facebook to pay a higher price than they would have paid. Google doesn't need another mapping service, as was demonstrated at Google I/O. There's no love lost between Facebook and Google . This is just one tactic in the high-stakes world of the Internet."

"Google already has real-time traffic capabilities by tracking everyone who uses Google Maps while driving," Moorhead added. "The only thing Waze brings to Google is driving gamification, where drivers note accidents and police. That's not worth $1 billion. If you are Facebook without any real-time mapping feature, then that is a big issue."

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said Google could use some help in social networking.

"Once users get reliant on Waze to help them get to work, etc., they might spend more time using Google Search or Google+," he said. "Google could probably build this themselves but this gives them a platform that's already built and it also keeps the mapping app out of Facebook's hands."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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