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Does Google Latitude Have the Fortitude to Beat Foursquare?

Watch out Gowalla!

Run for the hills Foursquare!

In your face…er, Facebook!

Location based status updates are the hottest thing in social networking and Google would like in on the action. Oh, and if it decides to enter the race, it already has a head-start with 3 million willing users.

3 million? Already? How’d that happen?

Well, Google Latitude has offered location awareness since before your best friend became the Mayor of the men’s restroom on the 4th floor–it was a nasty incident with a beef burrito, I’m sure he’ll explain more on Twitter.

Anyway, Google has hinted that it might just get in on this check-in nonsense by turning Google Latitude into a Foursquare competitor:

While he wouldn’t specifically speak to Google’s plans, Lee also hinted that Latitude would soon have a check-in component. When moderator Brady Forrest asked if Google would move from implicit to explicit location based on the popularity of check-ins, Lee said he does see the company moving that way. But he made sure to emphasize that they still see promise in the implicit model. “It will be a hybrid model eventually,” Lee said

What’s between Google and domination of this hotbed of “I’m here, so my house is empty if anyone wants to break-in”? Well, three things:

1. Google Latitude is pretty much locked out of the iPhone. Until the iPhone offers background running apps, Latitude won’t be on your iPhone anytime soon.

2. 25% of all Google Latitude users have zero friends. Sounds bad, but I suspect many Foursquare users are heading in that direction–if they don’t shut-up already!

3. Google has pretty much bombed with any social networking launch. Think Orkut or Buzz.

So, I don’t think Google Latitude is going to be a threat anytime soon, but–assuming Google is serious about the location awareness space–it could signal a buying spree among rivals hoping to snap-up Foursquare or Gowalla before the search giant gets its hands on them!