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Google Travel: Frommer's Acquisition Strengthens Position

Added by on Aug 17, 2012
Topic: Smarter Commerce

Google has picked up Frommer's travel guides, strengthening its position in the travel-guide space and location, generally. For Google, travel fits in well with its broader strategy, which remains search-centric.

For the IT community at midsize firms, the message is that if a company is developing a travel-related app, or otherwise concerned with travel and location-based tools, it is probably better to be working with Google than to be working against it.

Rostock - Old MapTravel and Search

Google has its fingers in many pies. But as Dan Farber reminds us at CNET, Google's basic business is running ads based on search. And it is a very successful business, good for nearly $38 billion in revenue last year.

Which means that for Google, travel-related services and tools fit in very neatly to the company's broader picture. After all, search in its original sense was about locations. And travelers are in particular need of the sort of information Google can provide. On the road, you probably can't rely on prior personal experience to find a good place to eat, sleep, or shop.

Thus, Google's latest acquisition of travel-guide firm Frommer's. It joins previous location-centric pickups such as Zagat. And the ongoing trend could be bad news for rivals such as Yelp and Fodor's. Understandably and unsurprisingly, these firms are raising questions about Google policies and the reliability of Google search results. The search giant has been accused of "cooking" its search results, a claim it denies.

Ruling the Road

In the long run, cooking search results would in fact be a very bad idea for Google. If a critical mass of consumers comes to believe that, say, Bing offers more reliable search results, Google's long virtual road trip could end up going over a cliff.

But for now, Google's dominance of travel-related search, tools, and services is a reality. And for midsize firms and their IT managers, it is a reality to take into consideration in developing travel-related offerings. While alternatives are available, from Bing maps to services such as Yelp, these are not smoothly integrated. For IT departments this would make app development more complex and uncertain.

And Google's position could be good news in ways that extend beyond technology integration. For example, Yelp has come under heavy criticism within the restaurant business. It, too, has been accused of "cooking" results. (A more subtle critique is that Yelp reviewers embody a hipster sensibility, and their reviews don't reflect what most prospective diners are looking for.)

So far, Google's Zagat has taken less heat on these accounts. And Google is robust enough that it may be less tempted to trade short-term gains for long-term risks. For midsize firms' IT departments that are taking their show on the road, this is something to consider.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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