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Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page stuck it to Apple a bit during a financial conference call today, characterizing Google Maps as “the most accurate and comprehensive” mapping product in the world, and he predicted that maps will be “a great source of revenue” in the long term.

With all of the embarassment that Apple faced with its Apple Maps blunders when iOS 6 debuted and its initial freeze-out of Google Maps as the default mapping option, maps has emerged as a key battleground in travel and beyond. 

Page, speaking during Google’s fourth quarter earnings call, was asked how Google plans on monetizing Google Maps.

Page said Google actually already makes a lot of money through maps because geographic-related queries have always been a “huge” part of Google search.

“It’s always been a core part of our main Web search,” Page said, referring to geographic-related search, and adding that Google Maps for iOS 6 was downloaded more than 10 million times in the first 48 hours that it appeared in iTunes.

“Maps are likely to be a great source of revenue, but it’s still in the early stages,” Page said.

ITA Software, Zagat and Frommer’s

Asked to describe Google’s travel strategy given its acquisitions of ITA Software, Zagat, and Frommer’s, Page said Google is attempting to answer users’ complex questions about flights, hotels, and vacations, and hopes to solve them “all at once in the way a human assistant” might.

He implied that Google search results in travel could send users to other sites or keep them on Google properties, but didn’t provide much detail.

That point raises a hot-button issue — will Google eventually get into handling travel transactions itself, or will it stay with its current playbook of acting as a travel-referral service.

Google aspires to answer complex queries in many areas, Page said, “not just travel.”

The company has collected some “amazing assets in mapping and travel,” which Page said will pay off for the company in the future.

Google’s net income for the fourth quarter rose 6.7% to nearly $2.9 billion on $14.4 billion in revenue, a 36.2% jump.

The revenue would have been even higher at $15.24 billion, but Google characterized Motorola Home as a discontinued operation.

Photo Credit: Google already makes a lot of money on Google Maps, but is mapping plans to make a bundle more.