Apple Maps Needs Waze, But Would They Know What to Do with It?

News broke yesterday of Apple’s rumored intention to acquire crowd-sourcing GPS navigation app, Waze.  It was reported that Waze is asking $750 million, but Apple is said to be bargaining at $400 million with a hundred million in earn-outs based on performance.

In an article published yesterday, we mentioned that one of the key things Apple must do to save-face when it comes to mapping is better leveraging social data.  Apple’s walled garden approach to software development has been a hindrance in competing with the likes of Google, leading to quite a quandary when it comes to Apple’s ability to deliver the products, and more importantly the services its consumers have come to expect.

The Waze acquisition makes sense since the service is driven by user-generated data.  So if Apple bought Waze, being social would be easy, right?  But we all know how Apple’s walled garden works.  They don’t share their information with third parties, while Waze is all about sharing their data with third parties – that’s their main revenue generator.  Waze sells their data to advertising companies so they can send location-based ads to consumers.  So even if Apple buys Waze, this may not be enough to perfect their mapping technology.

Kumbaya, Apple.

So how could Apple become more social?  First, they would have to realize the benefits of leveraging social data to gain insight on their own software, technology and emerging services.  It’s a trend we’ve seen in the enterprise for a couple of years now, particularly on the marketing front (an area that will be increasingly important for Apple Maps as it builds a service from its location-based technology).

Take for example DataSift.  They utilize a Cloudera-powered platform so their customers can easily look at “two years’ historical social data and compare that to what was happening in their business at the time in order to identify correlations and trends, to perform sentiment analysis, and to determine things like return on investment (ROI) for marketing or sales activities.”  Social data helps businesses drive better results, predict trends, and even improve brand awareness.


Using social data correctly

 Another thing that Apple has to consider is how to utilize the social data they gather.  Right now, they don’t have a comprehensive platform to utilize the data gathered, provided they successfully acquire Waze.  So what would Apple actually do with the data they acquire?  Would they be willing to share it with third parties and other data sets in order to better understand what consumers want, or at least identify emerging trends?  Apple is known for dictating the consumer experience, but can they handle people telling them what they want, and in turn providing solutions for consumer demand?

And of course, Apple should become more people-centric.  This is where personalized, consumer services come into play.  Apple currently has a penchant for hardware, but their software solutions are proprietary to the point of their own detriment, as in the case with Apple Maps.   They were so focused on kicking Google out of their system that Apple forgot about the consumer experience.  Right now Apple, Google and even Microsoft are battling over the complete consumer experience, from hardware to software, bridging gaps in the cloud.  Apple needs to find a way to expedite their software efforts if they hope to remain competitive in this space.

But would a Waze or any other mapping acquisition save Apple Maps?  Probably, if they use it right.  But for it to be very successful, Apple would have to iron out their native mapping before incorporating other parties’ work.