Google play catch up with map service

Google Inc on Tuesday launched in beta a map service that provides the location and directions to places and businesses.

Map services, which are also available on portals from Google rivals Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., are particularly helpful in local search, providing maps, as well as addresses and directions, to restaurants, stores, parks or other businesses or places of interest.

The Google service, which uses map data from Navteq, allows the user to find a city or street; businesses based on category, such as theater, and city; as well as directions to locations. Map features include zooming in and out to get more, or less, map detail.

"The quality of the maps is very nice, and they're easy to manipulate," Gary Price, analyst for, said.

In general, however, the Google service is "nothing we haven't seen before," Price said. "Yahoo has been mapping local search results for about a year."

Google's service also has some kinks. A search for "attorneys" in a city, for example, will get different results then a search for "lawyers" in the same city.

"A good directory structure should bring those types of queries together," Price said. "Yahoo's directory structure for local search works much better."

Google would argue that its map service is in beta, which means it's under development. The concept of beta, however, is being stretched thin by the giant search engine, considering its news service has been in beta for about two years, Price said.

"Everything from Google is basically beta," Price said. "So what does beta actually mean?"

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