Google buys Endoxon: What’s in store?

endoxon.gifThe other announcement today (#1 was NASA + Google) involves Google announcing the purchase of Endoxon, brought to my attention by Jonathan Crowe at The Map Room.

What is Endoxon? It’s a Swiss “Internet mapping solutions company”, as Google describes it. Endoxon’s website has been replaced with a page with some more details. For example:

Why is Google acquiring Endoxon?
Endoxon’s assets and its European network bolster engineering and technical resources for Google. This acquisition of Endoxon will enable us to leverage their analysis capabilities and will help us build out and improve the functionality of Google Earth and Google Maps across Europe.

Why did Google acquire only three of Endoxon’s six business units?

Google acquired Endoxon’s internet, mapping and data processing business units. Unlike the others, these complement Google Earth and Google Maps technologies and services.

“The others” are Data, Cartography and Direct Marketing, which are being spun off into another company, Mappuls.

What did Endoxon’s website say up until yesterday? Google’s cache doesn’t have it, which is why it’s always good to have some competition. From MSN’s cache, here is how Endoxon presented itself until recently:

COMPANY

Since 1988 Endoxon AG has impressed with ground-breaking solutions for data, cartography, the Internet and mobile communication. Endoxon AG not only offers a platform for every conceivable geographic need but also has positioned itself as the market leader in the development of the cutting-edge technology thanks to its convincing and successful innovations.

This pioneering enterprise is responsible for the first MMS service and the first independent mobile portal in Switzerland for SMS, MMS, WAP and WEB. And also created another landmark for the Swiss Museum of Communication and Transport: Swissarena, the l argest aerial photograph of Switzerland and the nation’s second largest depiction after the country itself.

The name Endoxon stands for quality, creativity, and innovation strength around the world.

I also emailed a Geneva-based friend up on Swiss tech companies, and here’s how he responded to my question about what all this means:

Looks to me like a body shop for rendering and processing map data into usable applications like map.search.ch. It takes ages, apparently. I don’t think any wow new products are going to come of it straightaway.

The idea of Endoxon being a processing resource for Google fits with Google’s own statement that the acquisition will “bolster engineering and technical resources for Google”.

I first came across Endoxon’s work last year, using map.search.ch, the Swiss Post’s web mapping service for Switzerland, which did all of the niftiest scrolling, zooming, layering and address-searching since the early days, sometimes long before Google Maps and the others were doing it. In that sense they are true innovators. Do check it out, and take note of the ability to turn on layers of points of interest in a way that is very similar to what Google Earth currently does. An indication, perhaps, of how some of Google Earth’s functionality might one day bleed back into Google Maps?

One is left to wonder whether today’s two announcements are related. On one end, Google agrees to organize NASA’s information, which involves close cooperation and more access to data. On the other end, Google beefs up its processing prowess via the acquisition of a Swiss company. In other words, a bastion of geospatial digital analysis and processing expertise is being gathered.

ESRI, are you watching? What if Google ends up doing all the analysis and data storage server-side for us, cheaply? Wouldn’t that put a chink in ESRI’s ArcGIS offerings?

[Update 1006-12-19: Christian Spanring points out that the acquisition now has some of Google's European competitors relying on Google. Sneaky!]

2 thoughts on “Google buys Endoxon: What’s in store?”

  1. To be fair, you might be thinking more of ArcWeb than ArcGIS Server. ESRI already does offer such a service and many already use it. There is already more content that you can image ready to go. Of course the ESRI method of marketing is a little 1980’s so you don’t see it in the mainstream press. The latest big client I’ve seen go with an ESRI solution is realtor.com and their mapping solution.

  2. Stefan:

    As I’ve said elsewhere, the elephant in the geospatial room is not ESRI, but Microsoft. With the sheer quantity of spatially referenced data set to increase exponentially with GPS, sensor networks, etc., the pie is going to get a whole lot larger very quickly. And ESRI will do fine in the market sector it has defined for itself (especially in the US).

    But the real battle will be between Google and Microsoft in their ability to rapidly produce targeted information based on criteria that has a spatial reference. Even now you can see that GMaps over the web is in part a dress-rehearsal for GMaps on your mobile handset. And the geoprocessing necessary on back-end spatial databases will be largely commoditized, especially when SQL Server supports geometry types natively.

    As for Endoxon, it surprises me little that a company with a focus on mobile apps, vector graphics and quality cartography is located in Switzerland. If Google is smart, they’ll make some of their California people travel there to soak in ideas and not vice versa.

    And this nugget from Gregor’s blog circa 2003 suggests that they get the big picture–

    “a google search that could interpret vector graphics would be far superior to the fuzzy matches we get today one presumes. ”

    BT

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