Malaysia gets its own Google Maps

Localized site helps Malaysian business community better connect with customers as companies can add relevant corporate information, says search giant.

KUALA LUMPUR--Google has launched a localized version of its Google Maps in Malaysia, which the search giant said would benefit local businesses by enabling them to better connect with their customers via relevant information.

Derek Callow, Google's Southeast Asia head of marketing, said the latest localized mapping software dubbed Google Maps Malaysia, lets companies add any information they choose for free.

Speaking here Thursday at its launch, Callow said the Web site will go a long way in helping local companies, especially small and midsize businesses (SMBs), list themselves on an online directory.

"With the Local Business Centre (LBC) feature, Malaysian companies can enter their name, location, pictures, contact phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and any other relevant information about their company onto Google maps," he told ZDNet Asia on the sidelines. "With these listings in place, users can then search for local companies and be presented with more information than mere geographical data."

Companies keen to use this feature can sign up with Google, upon which they will have complete control over their entries and can update their information anytime.

Besides the LBC feature, Callow said Google is also providing Maps API (application programming interface), a free Javascript-based or Flash-based toolkit that enables Google Maps to be embedded onto third-party Web sites. The embedded map is fully interactive and can be customized with location icons, photos and windows to provide all relevant information, he added.

Google Maps Malaysia currently already has information on roads, addresses, property and tourist information, as well as over 100,000 business directory listings, all of which are not available through the site's international version, he said.

Callow said: "This localized information was made possible through our partners. This will enable local search users to utilize the map in a more relevant way."

Google's partners are property portal iProperty, Tourism Malaysia, local lifestyle magazine KLue, and business directory listings provider Super Pages. KLue provided the listings on lifestyle events, restaurant reviews and club promotions, while Super Pages contributed the business directory listings.

When asked which other content providers Google plans to work with to create a larger database, Callow said it is willing to work with anyone that has relevant information that will enhance the local mapping site.

"We welcome any partner who can give us the right value-added content," he said, adding that this could include traffic content providers. "As a guide, we will also look at what content other countries have but is still not available in Malaysia yet." Callow, however, declined to say when this will happen.

Google Maps Malaysia is also available on a variety of mobile phone platforms and users can download the software.

To date, Google has launched localized versions of its Google Maps in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Japan and Korea. The launch of other localized versions such as that for Singapore, is in the pipeline, but company officials did not reveal the timeline for this.

The search giant also launched Google Map Maker in the Philippines last October, allowing users to contribute local content such as names of streets and establishments, that was later integrated with Google Maps.

Edwin Yapp is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.