This announcement is significant news for some handset vendors and more bad news for makers of personal navigation devices. The ability to conveniently pre-load maps onto an Android device means that no connection is required to stream map data while navigating. And map data can gobble up bandwidth very quickly.
Android devices did already have the ability to cache map data, but the intention was for a smoother map viewing experience. Google has also announced some improved aesthetic features for Maps and Earth such as a series of impressive 3D Fly-overs and expanded Street View.
While this might appear to be a marginal category improvement from Google and has been expected, it is meaningful to most industry players such as Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, Garmin and TomTom.
Free, high-quality offline navigation from Google has altered the playing field. Mapping has become on the of key mobile battle grounds, and no vendor can afford to get lost along the way.