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As Location Services Heat Up, Google Looks Indoors For Growth

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Speaking at the Social Loco conference in San Francisco, Google’s Marissa Mayer — who took charge of Google’s Location Services division in October — described Business Photos, a new product that will take Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Maps indoors.

Working right now in select cities in the U.S., Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, Google will send in photographers to take interior shots of a business; the shots will create a panoramic view will let users get a sense of the interior of restaurants, hotels, and retail stores.

Google has already set up a site where business owners can apply to have their Google glam shots taken. The U.S. test markets are Orange County, Calif., Phoenix, San Antonio, St. Petersburg, FL, and the San Francisco Bay Area. And Google isn’t interested in photographing just any business — the focus for now is on the most-searched businesses, like restaurants, hotels, and unique retail stores. Chains need not apply.

The universe of local businesses is huge, but Google isn’t saying how many businesses it plans to get images of in this manner, or releasing any other numbers about this product. In a later on-stage interview with Federated Media’s John Batelle, Mayer said that “several thousand” businesses have already invited Google to come and take photos. She also said that it’s possible that, down the road, Google users may help build out the database of indoor photos. “It’s easy to imagine us calling on members of the community to help us get to some of the hard-to-reach businesses,” said Mayer.

Mayer also gave a few updates on the growth of Google’s location-based products, like Google Places.

»  Google Places has marked out more than 50 million Place pages, and now includes more than 5 million ratings and reviews. It’s now growing at a rate of about one million ratings and reviews per month.

»  The growth of location services is being driven by mobile users. More than half of Google Maps users on weekends are accessing the product over their phones, Mayer said.

»  The company also announced a new, fancy version of Google Earth that will be available on Android tablets. It features 3D models of everything from college basketball arenas to the Taj Mahal. Many of the models have been created by users.

»  Much more information about Google Business Photos is available in an FAQ published by the company.

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