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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Carnival of Mobilists on LBS

While I'm turning into a big believer about location-based capabilities in mobile phones (GPS, maps etc), I'm much less convinced by the argument for monetisable location services.

I can quite imagine buying a Nokia device which comes with 4GB of global maps built in, plus GPS. I can quite imagine continuing to use Google Maps on mobile, with its clever autolocation capability.

But I can't imagine ever wanting "local search", or paying for "where is my nearest X", or trusting any "local" restaurant reviews where the venue has had to pay to be included in a directory. Possibly there may be some geo-specific advertising (step forward Google again), but in terms of actually getting money out of my own pocket for a billable service? No.

Nevertheless, there's a number of very good articles and different opinions courtest of this week's Carnival of the Mobilists, edited this week by Rudy de Waele. (It also references my post from last week about applications on smartphones).


Anonymous said...

Location-based mobile games can be pretty popular and very profitable. There are also a bunch of location-based health and fitness applications that make a decent amount of money. And never forget the grandfather of all location services; navigation. Virtually all US and Asian carriers have a navigation service on deck; they would not be doing it if it wasn't bringing in money.

Dean Bubley said...

Navigation is precisely the type of thing I am talking about.

It's not a service, it's a function. Sure, in the short term maybe a few few people will try it out.

Operators may well have it "on deck". But telecoms providers have a long & not very successful history of attempting to turn a standalone "product" into a "service". This is one of those areas.

Think about it this way - if you were being charged money by strangers to ask directions, you'd soon work out how much easier it would be to just go and buy a map.

Anonymous said...

Living in Japan, my view is probably a little skewed and I am probably too positive about apps (we love paying for services over here) but in the interests of giving LBS a fair shake I will try to respond to your three objections to LBS:

1)It has been around for a long time and we haven’t found a use for it yet

Applications are often about timing. (Ask anyone that tried to sell PoC a few years ago and they will soon start saying wistful things like, “We were ahead of our time”).
LBS have been around for a long time but I think Google maps and Nokia’s efforts at least show that it is a service that is may be about to have its time.

2) You wouldn’t be able to get people to pay for it

Don’t throw the service (and the operators) out with your pricing-model bathwater!! Just because it is hard to believe that users will go for the service priced as you describe, it doesn’t mean that operators can’t find a way to do it.
I love navigation and in Tokyo couldn’t live without it. Google Maps on the mobile (I have tried it) is a very poor substitute. Like many services from the Internet, it is great for the PC and great as a substitute for the paper version of the service, but very poor for an urban warrior that needs mobility and navigation to converge.
(Nokia I am sure have a better approach – I haven’t seen it).

LBS can be many things. It could be, for example, a 4 digit number that you call anywhere at anytime from your mobile to get guidance to the nearest McDonalds. Users don’t pay for this, but, if it gets pennies in the till, I am sure that McD’s would use some of their Internet-banner budget for it.

If your point was that operators need to get jiggy with their services and pricing models, I agree but I think that a lot of Telco’s are starting to do that.

3) Dean don’t want it

Can’t really respond to that one, but if I was one of the worlds’ top telecom consultants I would probably have a very funky navigation system in my expensive sports car and not need it on my phone either!! (I can dream)