With the launch of its Buzz social networking initiative Tuesday, Google underlined its lofty ambitions for mobile expansion. The new social platform is deeply integrated on the mobile side, across Google's mobile home page, Gmail, Google Maps, and Place Pages as well as Buzz apps for Android phones and the iPhone.
With Buzz, Google is specifically stepping more squarely into the burgeoning social location space, essentially giving users the ability to check in via mobile device from local venues as they can on services like Fousquare, Loopt and Yelp. (If Google couldn't buy Yelp, Buzz will have to be the next best thing, for now.)
People can add location tags to their Buzz posts and see those from friends or others nearby on a Google map. While the desktop version of Buzz drew mixed reactions from among the digerati, the mobile extension seemed to elicit more enthusiasm as tool for consumers and advertisers.
"It's easy to compare this with Facebook and Twitter, both of which, especially Facebook, have tremendous scale. But Google Buzz is ahead of the curve on the local front, both with massive distribution in a local context and an emphasis on tying messages to places," noted Corey Bergman of Lost Remote.
He also highlighted the potential for local advertising. "Empowering local businesses to self-publish to people around them, with massive Google Mobile distribution, can be a powerful value proposition, especially if Google ties it to recommendations and its Local Business Center," he wrote.
With competitors like Loopt this week adding advertising to its service in the form of special offers and discounts from local businesses, its not hard to envision Google heading in that direction as well. It's already introduced 2D mobile barcodes for small businesses to put up in their windows which people can scan with camera phones to get coupons, reviews and other information.
Dan Miller, senior analyst and founder of Opus Research, likewise noted the ad potential of Google Buzz even while lamenting the "paralyzing set of options" the search giant now presents developers with across products like Buzz, Wave, Reader, Talk, Gmail, Chrome and Android.
"Buzz is flawed, and is destined to fall short of its promise as an upgrade or augmentation of Gmail," he wrote. "But it is fairly easy to predict that its launch will accelerate development of a new channel for reaching the mobile public with promotional and directive messages." And while Google is a latecomer to the social location niche, Buzz will have the advantage of being the most tightly woven into other Google apps and systems like Maps, Place Pages and Android.