What would "Troogle" mean for travelers?

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The Independent Travel

Rumors are flying that Google could be preparing to purchase one of the most influential travel software firms in the world.

For all those wondering about the importance of another rumored Google purchase of a firm largely unknown by the general public - this time of travel software firm ITA - perhaps the size of the deal is an indicator of the potential impact.

Reports suggesting that Google is in talks to purchase ITA have given a figure of $1 billion (€747 million), not far behind the $1.65 billion (€1.23 billion) price tag the search giant paid for YouTube.

Of course, Google doesn't just throw that sort of money around - while most consumers will have never heard of ITA, the company powers some of today's household names and a reported 65 percent of online airline bookings.

So if you've ever used Fly.com, Hotwire, Orbitz, or TripAdvisor for price comparison, chances are you've used ITA's software. If you've booked direct from carriers such as Continental, American Airlines or Alitalia, the prices were probably generated by ITA software. And crucially, if you've ever searched for a flight on Microsoft's Bing - well, ITA was probably behind that too.

Owning the Cambridge, Massachussets-based ITA would instantly elevate Google to one of the leading players in the travel "meta-search" market, which is rapidly becoming travelers' preferred way to book tickets.

At the most basic level, the deal would give the search giant the information that it needs to offer instant fare information next to search results for flights, in much the same way as hotel prices have now been integrated into Google Maps.

But the software that ITA produces could potentially be used for much more. It offers the ability to plan trips based around event listings in select cities, for instance, potentially integrating with Google's other offerings such as Google Calendar to allow full travel "packages" to be sold.

It can also process booking changes, seat selections and online check-in for airlines (both online and through mobile devices), giving Google the chance to provide richer information on departures for travelers through its portal and location-based offerings.

Airlines use ITA software to track their spare seats and calculate pricing accordingly - potentially this information could be integrated with other Google services such as AdWords to ensure that flights are fully booked, every time, before departure.

Speaking at a travel technology summit in London on April 20, the Google UK Managing Director said that Google has no intention of being a "travel agent or tour operator."

But with such powerful travel technology potentially joining its arsenal, it seems likely that Google is set to be a prominent player in travel.

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