Every step you take, Google will be watching you

Cell phone GPS is no big deal in the tech industry -- it has been around for a while on various "smart" cell phones.  Google took the concept behind this existing technology and on Wednesday unveiled how it is modifying this idea into something new and different.  Google is looking to give those without a GPS equipped phone the ability to use their phone as a locater on Google Maps.

The feature which is available for most cell phones which are able to access Google maps.  Typically only smart-phones come with built in GPS.  Google estimates that the vast majority of user's cell phones -- 85 percent -- do not contain GPS support.

The technology is part of Google's cell phone market push, which includes, most significantly, the Android OS, Google's new cell-phone OS which is gearing up to take on Microsoft and Symbian.

The new locater service, will automatically enter the user's location information when Google Maps is loaded.

Google doesn't want its users to feel likes its watching them -- to alleviate privacy concerns, the system is designed to have minimal access to user information.  It will not collect or access the user's phone number or any other personal information that might help to reveal their identity.  Steve Lee, product manage for Google Mobile Maps also said the feature could be easily disabled by clicking a link in the help menu, as a further safety measure to set the consumer's mind at ease.

The service is drawing early enthusiasm from analysts, who say it will be great for on the go business people and travelers.

Google's service also has a couple of feathers in its cap over GPS.  Its service will work indoors, which the satellite-based GPS can not.  Further, it will drain the cell phone's battery less that GPS, which could also be very helpful to business travelers with a long and tricky travel route.

However, Google's service does have its downsides.  Google has rather vaguely stated that its range will be "on the neighborhood-level" , and will be between one-quarter to three miles of a user's location.  One-quarter mile might be acceptable, but three miles is very different.  If the service turns out to have a range of three miles, it would be virtually useless for in-city navigating, which would eliminate a large section of its market.

Also the service's backing database is currently under construction, so for now it will often draw a blank if it does not have the particular location in its memory.  Google says it will fill in more and more of these holes as more users adopt the service.

The service does have fairly wide international coverage.  It will support the US, much of Europe, the Russian Federation, Australia, and New Zealand.

There is also a somewhat long list of unsupported nations and phones.  There is no support currently for service in China or Japan; there is no current support for the iPhone, the Motorola Q, the Samsung Blackjack, or the Palm Treo 700w.

Google hopes to use the device to increase its profitability by targeting users with local ads when they surf the web.  Advertisers are willing to pay Google more to provide local ad content, as it is more effective in generating a user response.

With it cell phone drives, a new renewable energy initiative, and a constant array of new online offerings, the tech industry will constantly be wondering what the geniuses at Google will be cooking up next.

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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