Bottin Cartographes have successfully brought a lawsuit against Google in France. Bottin claims that Google has been anti-competitive when offering its free Google Maps API service to businesses and that this is not competitive with its own services. Of course, Google will appeal against this, and may well win, but it has potentially huge implications.
It can be really difficult for many conventional businesses to compete with companies that offer similar products and services free of charge. For businesses that have spent lots of time and money building a business, it can be frustrating to find that a large organisation comes along and gives the same, or very similar products and services away at no charge. Some of the largest players (such as Google) can afford to build these services almost out of their slush funds, as a bit of a punt, without necessarily having a concrete business plan to show how much return on their investment can be expected. Indeed, Google even has what it calls 20% time for its employees – allowing staff members to work on any business-related project of their choice for 20% of their working time.
As a consumer, I think Google Maps is a great application – so thank you Google, but it is sad if it renders conventional businesses unviable as a result.
As a business owner, though, I know that I offer my clients a better, more professional, and more thorough service than they can get from free Google Sites. I also believe that, as the saying goes, ‘all boats are lifted up in a flood’… making the market for my products and services larger than it was before they came along. In other words, owning a website is a more viable option than it was before for most people, and whilst they might look at a Google site as an initial option, they are more likely to come to me when they find that they want to do more with their web presence.
Perhaps Bottin Cartographes, and other organisations, should think like this too, and look for ways to capitalise on what must be a larger Worldwide market for business mapping services!
What’s your view? Is there a net benefit or a disadvantage to having companies like Google building the same services as you? Add your comments below…