SpatialTau v2.5 – Google Maps Engine to Esri and CartoDB

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So you probably heard the news last month that Google is ending support of Google Maps Engine.

Maps and location information are valuable tools for businesses – whether it’s helping people find your store locations or identifying sales opportunities across town. To help our Maps for Work customers continue to get the highest impact from our products, in 2015 we’ll focus on helping customers deliver location information via our Maps APIs and shift away from selling any non-Maps API products. We’ll support our Maps for Work customers through their contracts and work closely with them and our partners through this transition.

I first learned about it via CartoDB through their CartoDB on Google Platform post.  Seems like a great service from CartoDB and probably one that is very similar to the users of Google’s Maps Engine.  Last week though Esri got in on the action.

In coordination with Google, Esri has prepared a special offer for Google Earth Enterprise and Google Maps Engine customers and partners looking to transition to Esri software.

Details have been slim but it appears to be a consulting service to help people migrate their data from Maps Engine to ArcGIS Online.  I’m sure other companies are going to jump in and offer services to migrate the data either to other Google cloud services or other online mapping platforms.

But what is the big picture here?  Why did this happen?  Clearly only Google really knows why they terminated support but I can think of one of two scenarios.

  1. The market for hosted GIS solutions isn’t that big.  Google probably had visions of millions of companies using and paying for Google Maps Engine but in the end the effort to continue to improve the service wasn’t worth the revenue coming in.  Users leverage Google Maps API but store their information in other locations.  Traditional users use Esri or homegrown utilities and new mapping users use other hosted solutions (such as CartoDB or Mapbox).  The Google Maps for Work has more upside for Google because it uses their standard products and is easier to share with other Google Services.  Small companies such as CartoDB and Mapbox can make money with such small number of customers and large companies such as Esri make up the difference with ELA sales.  Hosted GIS is a disappointment and a sideshow for mainstream tech companies.
  2. The market isn’t using Google Maps Engine.  While people have dipped their toes in the product, no body is really using it for production work.  The Esri/CartoDB/Mapbox solutions are more powerful and better supported.  When it came time to put their money down on Google Maps, they choose to go elsewhere.

So which one is it?  Probably a little of both as I think the market isn’t mature enough and I think people didn’t use Google Maps Engine.  The Google Maps for Work seems much more like a Google service and coupled with the announcement that Google Earth Pro is now free, Google is leaving the traditional GIS market to Esri.

Will this be a new source of revenue for CartoDB?  Most likely and one that could be substantial (hopefully).  For Esri I can’t imagine this moving the needle enough to make a financial impact.  But the big win for Esri is removing a service that was a compeditor for ArcGIS Online which they view as a key to their future product plans.

Win for CartoDB and Mapbox and win for Esri.  Probably win for Google too as they can focus on Google Maps for Work.  Esri and the others have products to replace Google Maps Engine, will companies like them more than Google?  We’ll have to see.