Author: Stewart Berry
Google has quietly announced the discontinuation of the most important business features in Google Earth Pro: the inclusion of parcels, demographics, and traffic counts for the USA. The following three layers and Parcel (APN) Search feature were removed from Google Earth Pro on January 29, 2016:
This continues the trend of business mapping applications losing features, moving to the Cloud, and increasing in cost.
The desktop business mapping sector is a traditional market that still remains popular. This is especially true among industries that require easy-to-use map software that resides behind their firewall, is affordable yet flexible and powerful, and has tangible business benefits.
Banking and healthcare in particular have stringent controls on what can leave their corporate domain and on what can be used in the Cloud.
Google Earth Pro previously cost US$399/year, and has been free since 2015. The features of GE Pro were popular in the real estate industry that came to rely heavily on the searchable property data that Google Earth has now killed off. The traffic count data was widely used in retail for store placement, while the demographics were used throughout the business analysis community.
Google will also discontinue the geo-app My Tracks after April 30, 2016. This app used your phone's built-in GPS to let you record and share the route you took.
Google is offering few direct alternatives for their customers: "Google Maps shows parcel boundaries for many areas if you zoom into the cartographic basemap. The lines are faint, so zoom in and look carefully. Note that the parcel data coverage may not be the same as what was in Google Earth, and you can’t search for a parcel APN".
Other major players have also made similar moves. Microsoft recently killed Microsoft MapPoint, Streets & Trips, and AutoRoute . Some of the perceived inadequacies of the alternatives offered by Microsoft are discussed on the MapPoint discussion list and include inflexibility, limited features, and cost. For example, the Bing and Google solutions are considered far too expensive for most routing applications (which are almost by definition commercial in nature).
Esri killed their budget BusinessMap product several years ago but have now released a free competitor to Google Earth Pro. However, Esri’s “ArcGIS Earth” lacks the key business data removed from GE Pro. Some even see the Esri product as technical software for mapping specialists, rather than as a commercial grade and mass market replacement (URL).
Of the four desktop COTS (Maptitude, BusinessMap, MapPoint, GE Pro), Maptitude ( www.MappingSoftware.com ) is the last remaining commercial grade and affordable business mapping application at US$695/year (comparable to Google Earth Pro). Maptitude includes detailed demographics and accurate, comprehensive, average traffic speed data derived from billions of multi-year vehicle speed observations on every type of road. There are also many free sources of parcel data that Maptitude can map and that Maptitude can provide APN-based search for.
As Google refines its business model in relation to mapping, business users are faced with few alternatives for "one-stop-shop" mapping products. This trend has not been limited to Google, with Microsoft and Esri also killing affordable desktop products in favor of Cloud applications that can be costlier and have a more limited feature set.
Maptitude is bucking this trend with a growing user base, especially among those companies that require unlimited geocoding/address-matching tools, in-house offline mapping, and an affordable price point without subscriptions.
For more information on Maptitude please visit www.MappingSoftware.com.