Google: Take Me to Omaha

The annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting will be in Omaha, Nebraska on Saturday, April 30th. There is a chance I will be able to attend. There are a few tickets available on eBay in case the one I’m hoping for has already been given away.

A few months ago I read an amazing book about Warren Buffett and blogged about wanting to attend his annual meeting. He may be the greatest investor of all time, will soon pass Bill Gates as the richest man in the world, and his annual meeting is only 900+ miles away. I have to do this.

I used a travel site to find flights from Salt Lake City to Omaha. I don’t really like travel site interfaces, with calendars that pop up and throw you off as you try to check for flights. They always try to throw in hotels and car rentals as well.

Then I had a most amazing experience at Google Maps. I just decided to type in:

slc, ut to omaha, ne

to see what would happen.

The result was so cool

Think of the efficiency of my query, and how instantly I knew the route and the distance between these two cities. I didn’t have to wade through any interfaces or fill out any forms to get exactly what I was hoping to see.

Now, imagine if Google Maps provided this same query engine and interface with airline data overlaid on top of my query.

If I could type:

slc, ut to omaha, ne from apr 28 to may 1

Then I should get the same map as before, only this time, I should have several different lines showing different flights or routes between the two cities. Each different airline could be color-coded and pricing information could also be visible on the map.

Efficient query syntax is required by many power users, but more importantly, I predict that companies that enable efficient (concise) queries will dominate companies who rely on traditional software or web interfaces in the mobile content arena, where navigation through pages or filling out forms is a horrible user experience.

Mobile users who can learn this kind of syntax can have great power using a tiny mobile device without a keyboard. When Google Maps are combined with Google SMS (and then overlaid with travel agency type data), the raw power we’ll have through our cell phones will be phenomenal.

2 Comments

  1. Killer Idea!

    Google already ties in flight information in their main query page, I’m sure that they could work out a deal with the major carriers to offer their published rates on the maps page…

  2. I wonder if something like this is closer than we think. Here are three recent developments I’ve seen that tie in with Google Maps:

    1. Google Maps + Craiglist (http://paulrademacher.com/housing/) — You can see all the houses listed on Craiglist on a Google Map. It’s available for over a dozen cities.

    2. Google Maps + Chicago Transit (http://www.holovaty.com/blog/archive/2005/04/19/0216) — This one shows the routes of the Chicago Transit on Google Maps.

    3. Google Maps + Boston Transit (http://mojodna.net/?p=2) — Same as #2 but done by a different person.

    Google Maps’ XML interface is letting anyone who has the technical know-how to hook-in and generate useful maps.

    These new airfare comparison sites may be the type to hook in with Google Maps. As I understand it, both of these sites are screen-scraping search engines, so they don’t depend on having reseller agreements with airlines. Very useful, and they both have good interfaces.

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