Google Maps for Android has received an update that strengthens Google’s position at the intersection of mapping and mobility. A similar Google Maps update is pending for iOS – but in the bigger picture, Google Maps could pose a growing future challenge to Apple’s iOS.

Maps and mobility, after all, go hand in hand. Having maps available on a home or office desktop is a convenience. Having maps available while on the go is often a sheer necessity. And on the business side, “geolocation” – reaching out to mobile consumers – is a hot ticket.

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As Seth Rosenblatt reports at CNET, Google has released a major update to its Google Maps for Android app. The move follows the updates to Google Maps’ core functionality that were announced in May.

Even as Google Maps expands its mobile hold, notes Don Reisinger, also at CNET, Google sounded Taps for one feature: Google Latitude, a social feature that allowed users to share their locations; Latitude will be retired next month, and therefore was not included in the update. Google has never hesitated to give the ax to products that have not worked out, and Latitude now joins Google Reader in the company’s burial ground. But while Latitude is fading away, Google Maps is going from strength to strength.

The new round of updates to the Android version will firm up Google’s hold on mapping and geolocation. The updates also challenge a couple of familiar players in the mobility world: Zagat reviews are now directly linked to Maps, a direct shot at Yelp, and a feature called Explore provides capabilities similar to some features of Foursquare.

Taking Aim at Apple (Again)

The larger challenge posed by Google Maps for Android, however, is surely to Apple and its iOS mobile operating system. Yes, a parallel update to Google Maps for iOS is in the works, though Google did not announce a date. But the entire subject of maps is an embarrassing reminder to Apple of its failed attempt to go head-to-head against Google Maps.

More to the point, Android will always have a headstart in integrating Google Maps because of their shared origin in the Google-plex. Mapping and geolocation functions will thus be able to take advantage of Android functionality at a deeper level. The first beneficiaries will be Android developers, but the apps they develop will go into the hands of Android users.

Google may not rule the world, but it is well on its way to ruling the world map.


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