Google Maps now in SA

Google has officially launched its Maps application for South Africa (http://maps.google.co.za/). New detailed maps of many South African cities and towns, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and East London, are accessible on Google Maps through any web browser or via Google Maps for Mobile on data enabled handsets. 

New features

Though South African mapping was already available, it’s the feature set that has seen an extensive upgrade. In addition to searching online Maps, Google Maps users will now be able to find businesses and check driving directions.  Businesses will be able to add their own business listings for free via Google Maps Local Business Centre.

Using the Local Business Centre (www.maps.google.com/lbc ) feature, companies can now enter information about their business, including their address, opening hours, phone numbers and photo for free.

The driving directions feature includes a few innovative functions, such as the ability to drag the Google generated route about the map, if one wishes to change the direction plan. The direction instructions can then be printed out.

Stephen Newton, country manager for Google South Africa said, “Google Maps will be vastly different today than it was two days ago.”

Among the familiar overlays such as Map, Terrain and Satellite, there are numerous new overlay functions. The photo’s overlay will bring up thousands of user uploaded images for popular sites. The Wikipedia overlay will add links to Wiki articles about the sites. The webcam overlay allows users to view a live feed of an area.

The map data includes a substantial amount of user generated content provided via Google Map Maker as well as thousands of business listings for South African cities.  The new maps also include ‘My Maps’ and hotspots of a number of South African artists and experts.

The My Maps feature allows users to highlight their favourite locations, and share the information with other users. In this way Google hopes to enrich the map viewing experience.

“Our goal with Maps is to make information with a geographical dimension available to everyone and to allow users to update the maps and develop on top of them,” Newton continued.

In preparation for the 2010 World Cup, Google Maps is committed to having the Street View function operational in time for the event.

Google Maps Mobile

Shaun Kirk, Head of Marketing, Samsung Mobile, said that Samsung was glad to be partnering with Google on Google Maps for Mobile.

Vodacom also weighed in on the issue saying that it would allow businesses to take advantage of the opportunities to showcase themselves to mobile users in time for 2010.

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Google Maps now in SA