By Liz Gannes and Mike Isaac

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

This Time It’s Real: Google to Buy Waze And Keep It Independent

Google is very close to acquiring Waze, the crowd-sourced navigation app, according to two sources close to the situation.

While no deal has been inked yet, the acquisition is likely to be finalized in the coming days, sources said, with one source expecting a Tuesday announcement date. The deal could reach upwards of $1.3 billion, according to Globes, which first reported the news of the impending acquisition.

Waze will remain an independent entity for the time being, one source said, perhaps assuaging some fears that the tech giant will either outright kill or significantly alter the popular app.

The deal would put an end to long-running speculation, fueled by leaks and tacit admissions, that the Israeli-founded mobile startup would end up in the hands of a major tech player.

However, it’s likely not going to be as easy as writing a check. There are not many global sources of mapping data: just Waze, Google, Navteq, TomTom and OpenStreetMap. Thus, this would be a deal that attracts serious regulatory scrutiny — the political rigamarole that the search giant is all too familiar with at this point.

In the grand scheme of mapping software, Waze isn’t a behemoth: The startup boasts 47 million registered users, 32 percent of them active. What’s impressive is how accurate its maps and traffic information are in areas where it has critical mass, because they are constantly updated by users who are running the app as they drive.

Google hasn’t always felt so positively about the startup. It had previously cut off mapping API access to the startup, CEO Noam Bardin said at our Dive Into Mobile conference. And Waze has supplied data for Apple’s maps, but Bardin suggested this was on a minimal country-by-country basis.

Apple had previously said it did not make a bid for Waze, while we reported that Facebook walked away from buying the company at the due diligence phase. Perhaps the only other company that could make a play would be Microsoft, which already has a minority equity stake in Waze as an investor.

Spokespeople for Google and Waze declined to comment.

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