I recently came accross this quote in the Financial Times from the former Vodafone CEO on November 19, 2007: "The simple fact that we have the customer and billing relationship is a hugely powerful thing that nobody can take away from us". Would you still agree with this operator statement written in golden letters at the forefront of any "smart pipe" operator strategy?
Since then, new entrants such as Google and Apple have shaken up the value chain. I have two examples in mind showcasing the tectonic shifts happening: 1) Apple imposing a direct billing relationship via iTunes/App store and 2) Google managing to create its own location data base (via cell ID or Skyhook's wireless technology) without relying on operators' network.
As early as in July 2007 (before the 3G iPhone version embedding a GPS chip), Google Maps on iPhone (the combo of Google's and Apple's strengths) started offering the "magic blue circle" experience. You could benefit from a compelling user experience like never before, with instant localization without any GPS chipset. Of course, the accuracy may not be good enough if you are looking for a pure turn-by-turn navigation, but honestly this is so simple and useful if as a pedestrian you're looking at the streets nearby.
Location is at the very heart of the mobile value proposition.
This seems quite obvious but despite having being launched by operators for more than a decade, location-based services never really managed to gain huge traction. In the last two years, a lot has happened as highlighted above because of significant changes in the mobile ecosystem.
Location-based services are finally emerging as one of the most promising new mobile services categories in the mobile industry.
Thirty percent of European online consumers with mobile phones are interested in using mobile GPS/navigation services, while 52% of smartphone owners with unlimited mobile Internet packages already do so!
Beyond navigation services and mapping, a range of innovative location-based services (LBS) for mobile phones is emerging. Coupled with consumer interest are significant changes in the value chain, with Nokia’s acquisition of NAVTEQ and Web developers’ interest in the mobile platform being key drivers for LBS.
Location identifiers help filter and search for information, facilitating interactions between people. If consumer product strategists manage to build a compelling user experience and reassure consumers about privacy and pricing issues, location as a service will become obsolete — and will instead become a core enabler of mobile activities.
If you want a synthetic view of this topic, check out our latest European research on this theme: the future of location-based services.