Is Google Overhauling Its Maps?

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) could be on the road to an updated Maps web application, but the changes might be unwelcome among fans and could even anger Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).

TechCrunch republished screenshots from an unofficial blog, Google Operating System, that appeared to show an updated version of Google Maps for web browsers. Apart from lacking the app’s traditional yellow streets, the screenshots showed major updates to the way the map showed information.

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While current and older versions of Google Maps show information — such as destination information, search information, and directions — in a list view embedded in a sidebar off of the map, the update could throw that information into direct map overlays.

The result could either be a rather cluttered map or a more seamless map. It’s hard to say. Because most of the information appears displayed over the map, it could make the map hard to see. However, it’s likely that most of the displays will pop up away from the locations’ placement on the map, putting the destination information closer to the map information than it would be on a sidebar.

Interestingly enough, this change to Google Maps could upset Apple in terms of patents. Last month the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent that hinted at future Apple Maps plans, which could not only take the currently-iOS-based maps to the web, but might also look like the new, rumored Google Maps.

The patent included images of suggested map layouts that included bountiful overlays on the map itself. However, the overlays are still quite different from those shown in the alleged Google Maps screenshots. Apple’s overlays appear to just be numbers that match corresponding sidebar information — which the screenshots suggest Google is doing away with.

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It’s unlikely that this update to Google Maps would stir up much contention between Apple and Google. It’s also uncertain if and when the updated Google Maps will come out. Since the blog that released the screenshots is unofficial, its possible that no such update will come out. However, there have been several Google leaks recently that later turned out true, so its not too much fantasy to expect an update. Plus, Google’s I/O conference is coming up very soon.

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