Google’s New Tools: Free, But Are They Worth It?

By Brian Summerfield, Online Editor, REALTOR® Magazine

I came across an article recently that talked about the release of Google Chrome, a new operating system (OS) from the tech geniuses at Mountain View, Calif. Now, a free OS from one of the world’s preeminent tech companies might seem like a surefire success, but the author of the piece suggests that it’s nothing to get that excited about.

For those not inclined to read the whole thing, he makes the following points:

  • Google produces outstanding Web technologies (such as its e-mail, browser, and most importantly, search tools).
  • However, it doesn’t make business applications (such as word processors and spreadsheets) that measure up to offerings from Microsoft or Apple.
  • Plus, even though it’s free, most computers are sold with Windows already loaded, so people will have to like Chrome enough to install it.
  • In addition, Google sits on a giant pile of money, and can afford to let its engineers play around with new initiatives that have little to do with its core business (search and Web ads).
  • Finally, it appears that Chrome is primarily Google’s attempt to put a thumb in the eye of Microsoft (perhaps the company’s response to the launch of the Bing search engine, which probably won’t seriously challenge Google’s domination of that space).

(Side note: It’s interesting that despite all the talk about the rapid changes in technology, the most popular OS in the world is nearly eight years old.)

Anyway, the release of the Chrome OS more or less coincides with another announcement from Google that’s generating some buzz in real estate industry: the enhancement of real estate search on its Maps app. The “pilot” for this was rolled out in Australia and New Zealand, and may be coming across the Pacific soon is now in the United States.

Now, Google has tried to get into real estate search before, with modest results. As Derek Overbey pointed out in the Roost blog, the main reason for the lackluster reception to the company’s efforts up to this point is the data. Specifically, the listings are often outdated or inaccurate, due to the sources the search engine is drawing from, which may be why Google doesn’t really promote this service all that heavily. But this hasn’t stopped the company from trying to gain a foothold in this area.

For fun, I experimented with Google’s newest attempt, searching for homes priced from $250,000-500,000 (in Aussie dollars, mate) in Sydney, Australia, a city I’ve never been to and don’t know much about. I admit, it was kinda cool. I used features like the satellite view, street view, and area searches to get a real feel for neighborhoods like Double Bay, Pyrmont, and Chippendale.

However, as a potential Australian home buyer (OK, not really), I thought it left something to be desired. It seemed to me like the media overwhelmed the message somewhat. I spent more time playing around with the map than looking at listings. And the property profiles I did look at didn’t have that much in the way of info and pictures.

Conclusion: As with the Chrome OS, Google’s latest attempt at real estate search probably won’t set the world on fire, and for many of the same reasons. It’s not as good as what’s already there, it’s more of an ongoing experiment for Google, and the company’s bottom line doesn’t depend on serving up real estate listings. Google has developed some excellent Web technologies, and it may produce a great real estate search tool someday, but it’s probably not going to happen anytime soon.

Brian Summerfield

Brian Summerfield is Manager of Business Development and Outreach for NAR Commercial and Global Services. He can be reached at bsummerfield@realtors.org.

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Comments
  1. Thanks for the reference Brian. It is good to finally see some people talking about this subject in a little more detail. BTW, the function doesn’t just work in Australia and New Zealand . They have Google Base linked in the the real estate search option on Google Maps. Check out Chicago here:

    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&q=Chicago&sa=N&tab=wl&um=1

    Looks a little like the movie Outbreak at this level. I hope people continue to talk about this to have people understand that data really is king.

    Derek

  2. Well, I for one would love the see Google become a competitor to R.com. I love Google products like Google Docs, Analytics and AdWords. It would be great to have a syndication site that reliably offered multiple photos, VT links and listing agent contact info AT AN AFFORDABLE PRICE (or maybe even free….unlike R.com). Of course, that does open up some FSBO issues.

  3. Usually i am not preferring to use Google Toolbar. But i used at once it is really worthless. Some of tools are really unmanaged. Anyway thanks for sharing information with us.

  4. I just found this post on a google search, yes using Google Chrome. I can tell you that I started using google-chrome when it first came out and then went to Firefox. I am now back to Chrome and a happy camper.

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