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Charging is good since it keeps the product around, but Google's prices seem ramp up suddenly from free to way too high suddenly. First Appspot and now this, looks like their pricing is too out of line for small to medium companies. They need a flatter pricing curve.

Perhaps it is Googles way of not becoming a monopoly in a market segment?

By charging high prices for their solutions they end up fostering mom and pop solutions which would otherwise not have a chance.

Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

I don't think they really care. In the current landscape, Google Maps is a competitive advantage for them and the less people using it the better. They leverage it across the Android ecosystem, their new social network, etc.. and it creates more work for their competitors to play catch up.

  the less people using it the better
How is that? I would say the marginal cost of extra users is minimal, especially given their (lack of) customer service.

Parent means that less API users (product competitors) is better, not less end users.

Maybe not... This thread got me wondering, one of the points in the article is "why pay to have sites that look the same as the rest"

Maybe google prices is to remove gmaps from everywhere and sell only to premium sites.

If they disappear users are already hooked and will migrate to the premium sites that still have it

Agreed. They effectively pushed my startup from Appspot to Heroku.

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