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Google buys Waze in bid to improve mapping services

The acquisition, for which terms weren't disclosed, will leave Israel-based Waze operating separately for now.

Waze's mobile navigation app.
Waze's mobile navigation app.

Google has agreed to acquire Waze, the Israel-based company behind the mapping app Facebook was also reportedly vying for, according to blog posts from both Google and Waze.

The deal, for which terms weren't disclosed, follows months of speculation about who would land the startup. Reports later in the day pegged the price at a little more than $1 billion. In recent days, Google was said to be close to a $1.3 billion deal and that Facebook talks had fallen apart.

The acquisition could help Google improve its own mapping services and put a bigger moat around them against the likes of Facebook and Apple. Monday, Apple promised to bring iOS maps integration into cars.

At its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, Apple Vice President Eddy Cue said Honda, Mercedes, Nissan, Ferrari, and Infiniti are all working on functional integration of more iOS features in their cars, including making its maps program available on a car's LCD like music functions already are. Cue said this integration could come out as soon as 2014, making it likely to be in 2015 models.

Apple's troubled map program has vexed users since its launch, when it was panned for charting some wildly inaccurate locations and having awkward usability. The backlash brought about a rare public apology from Apple, but earlier this year Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said at a conference that his company didn't enter the race for Waze, after taking a look at its books.

For its part, Google said in its post about the takeover that it planned to enhance Google Maps with some of the traffic update features provided by Waze and bolster Waze with its own search capabilities. The Waze product development team will remain in Israel and operate separately for now.

Waze leverages a growing community of drivers to find the best routes through traffic. It said joining Google's ranks, rather than moving toward an IPO, will keep attention focused on its community of drivers, instead of shifting it to lawyers and Wall Street.