Google Maps has had Public Transport directions support in Japan for some time, but as of December they’ve now rolled out Walking directions as well. [Link in Japanese]
This allows Google Maps to directly compete with Navitime’s maps service.
|Public Transport Directions||Yes||Yes|
|Voice Navigation||Yes||Only latest Android Google Maps version|
GPS Navigation units are standard in Japanese cars, so the competition between Navitime and Google is really focused on smartphones and the Web.
Navitime is the current leader for Japanese mobiles, with the Navitime application pre-installed on certain handsets from all major Japanese carriers (Softbank, Docomo, KDDI, and Willcom). But web savvy users tend to look to Google Maps running on their smartphone of preference for Maps navigation (ie. iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian).
A big difference between Navitime and Google Maps is their business strategy. As we all know Google Maps is essentially ad supported and thus free to the user, but Navitime is not unless it’s included as a service from the mobile carrier.
Navitime has been working on Map navigation since 2000, when Google Maps wasn’t even a twinkle in Google’s eye. But with competition heating up fast they’ve got to stay on their toes.
In response Navitime has started running TV commercials advertising their Driving navigation.
The news of Google adding Walking directions in Japan might be bad news for Navitime, but it’s good for us users. With these companies competing to provide directions for every mode of transportation, there’s really no longer an excuse to get lost when walking around Tokyo! ;)