According to a just-published Bloomberg report, Google is preparing a bid for Waze. Earlier this month, rumors indicating Facebook was in late-stage acquisition talks with Waze for roughly $1 billion appeared online. Other parties (Apple, Microsoft) may now also be interested in the social mapping service.
According to the Bloomberg report:
Waze is fielding expressions of interest from multiple parties and is seeking more than $1 billion, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. The Palo Alto, California-based startup might also remain independent, instead seeking to raise a round of venture capital financing, the people said.
It’s quite likely that certain Waze investors or insiders originally leaked the Facebook acquisition talks story to various tech blogs and news outlets in an effort to notify other potentially interested parties and create just such a “bidding war” scenario — as a way to boost the total price of the acquisition.
Waze has built a loyal and highly engaged community of social mappers. It would be an asset for any of the potential acquiring parties: Facebook, Apple, Microsoft or Google. Arguably, however, Google needs Waze the least of all the other parties identified.
The Bloomberg article suggests that one of Google’s potential motivations may be to take Waze away from a competitor such as Facebook or Apple. If Waze were to be acquired by Google it’s quite likely that over time the service would lose vitality and value for its users. In the end — perhaps in the medium term — Waze the brand would probably disappear and be absorbed into Google Maps.
In some respects, it would be cheaper and easier for Google to replicate some of Waze’s social features in Google Maps for Mobile. However, Google probably couldn’t replicate the Waze community or its loyalty so readily.
Many people have questioned whether Waze in its current form is worth $1 billion. If four or five parties are competitively bidding for Waze, it could go for well over that figure, making its investors and principals very wealthy — and potentially leaving its users stranded by the side of the road.