2 min read

🧭 What is a platform? Map edition

🧭 What is a platform? Map edition
Photo by GeoJango Maps / Unsplash

Last June, I was pointing out how being able to seamlessly use the iPhone as a Mac webcam was speaking volumes about how Apple is not a product company, but a fully integrated hardware and software platform. I didn't mean to make a recurring theme of this "You're seeing a new feature, whereas it's more than that" discussion, but I realize I won't escape it as it's genuinely a fascinating topic.

Case in point: Google has updated Maps with an option to work out the best energy-efficient route for your trip.

Factoring energy efficiency according to your car motorization (source: Google).

The feature previously tested in the U.S. is now live throughout most of Europe.

Ironically enough, the feature is the output of machine learning models trained on... public data (namely, the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the European Environment Agency).

So, why is this such an important tell of how powerful is Google as a platform?

Google is admittedly one of the most powerful digital platforms worldwide and has integrated better than anyone else the four levels of "platformization."

As a reminder, this is what we are talking about:

  1. Dematerialization of the product to make it available at reduced infrastructure costs and make it "as a service."
  2. Disintermediation to connect your total market with proprietary channels.
  3. Building network effects to reach a critical mass of customers and become a de facto monopoly.
  4. Predict what customers will want before they ask by leveraging the vast amounts of data flowing through your channels. Rinse and repeat with new products.

Adding energy efficiency features to Maps is simply Google flexing its level four muscles. At this point, they're not only smart; they just show off how fast they can understand customers' emerging needs and deploy remarkable solutions worldwide, practically overnight.  

And in passing? They swiftly void key added value elements pitched by MaaS solutions or smart city platforms that still struggle to find any sizeable market. They make other platforms such as Tesla (no, it's not a car company) possible depending on them, or direct competitors such as Apple more fragile (platforms compete on how many billion customers feed their in-house network effect, not the products they're selling).