In Google's continued integration of the Zagat properties, the company has announced that all of Zagat's paid apps will now be free for download.
In a message to Zagat mobile customers earlier this month, Zagat announced an October 15 kill date for all paid apps:
Dear Zagat customer,
Please note that our older mobile applications will cease to function on October 15, 2012, and you will no longer be able to use them. These apps will be replaced soon with new, free apps on selected platforms.
If you paid for one of our mobile apps, you may be eligible for one free Zagat guide of your choice (retail value up to $15.95) with free shipping in the United States. Guide must be claimed by December 31, 2012.
Of course, this doesn't sit well with those users that had spent over $9.99 per mobile app. Who wants a printed guidebook when you opted to purchase a digital version to begin with? And what does "selected platforms" mean?
A Zagat spokesperson responded to Tnooz via email:
As a gesture to our loyal users Zagat is offering our paid mobile app customers their choice of one free Zagat guide, priced up to $15.95, plus free shipping in the United States. We are using a variety of channels to try to inform our users, such as email, in-app notifications and mail.
Zagat's trusted ratings and reviews are available for free through Google search, maps and Google+. We are working to make the mobile experience of finding a great restaurant recommendation more consistent with the experience already available to desktop users.
When asked about the added value that consumers can expect with the upcoming free mobile apps, Zagat was mum: "We can't comment on future products, but we look forward to sharing more in the coming weeks."
While it's not at all surprising that Google would bring Zagat into the free ecosystem, especially given Google+ Local and Apple's extensive integration of Yelpin their mapping application, Zagat was once a premium product that will certainly lose some cachet and authority with this latest move.
"Zagat's trusted ratings and reviews" might not be as trusted if they are available anywhere and everywhere for free, with all the downward pressures on costs that ubiquity can bring. Google will need to maintain the proper levels of funding for Zagat to retain the 33 years of trust and authenticity of the Zagat brand.
On the other hand, Zagat reviews are generally of a higher quality than Yelp reviews, and offering up these reviews across Google, and via mobile apps, could force Yelp to increase the perceived quality of their reviews.
Afffected users can read the FAQ here, or go to the Zagat website here to claim the free Zagat Guide offer.