Telmap has flipped the switch on its direct to consumer smartphone navigation strategy shifting entirely to the white label approach the company has pursued for many years with operators. The company expects the new positioning to give it a competitive edge vis a vis Nokia and Google and vault it into a global leadership position.
Prospects were looking bleak for Telmap when industry heavyweights Google and Nokia began offering free navigation applications for smartphones. Google made the application available as a download for iPhones and, more recently, Android-based phones, while Nokia recently began including navigation on its handsets.
The Telmap strategy overturns both of these approaches by working through wireless operators, a strategy pursued by both TeleNav and Networks in Motion (now part of TeleCommunications Systems) in the U.S. But Telmap is taking the approach on the road with partners throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Telmap is taking a three pronged approach providing:
1) An off-board application with local search and navigation that can function with all operating systems;
2) A location platform with APIs to facilitate the distribution of any and all location applictions;
3) A Web-based application that allows for desktop management of location applications and synchronization with the phone.
The initial launch of the new positioning will manifest in O2 Germany delivering 30 handsets by the end of May all equipped with the Telmap technology. In fact, Telmap says it is already seeing 500-1000 new activations per day based on the new approach.
The white label is ideally suited to the shift, in Europe, to a bundled model for applications and services. Navigation is increasingly being provided at no charge, so the model has shifted to enabling different billing and payment methods for selling enhanced content and applications.
The white label strategy gives Telmap a strategic edge because it allows the operators to introduce a cross-platform solution that can be advertised and promoted across their entire handset line-up regardless of handset supplier or operating system. Telmap hopes operator support will help juice its subscriber base, which currently stands at approximately 1M in Europe and 1.5M globally.
And operators are keenly interested in exploiting the location opportunity because, thus far, the margins have been quite high, according to Telmap executives. To keep that revenue flowing, Telmap is enabling integration with ultra local content and services such as Coyote safety camera apps in France and road charging services in the U.K.
Additionally, the free Telmap application allows for premium upsells and a variety of booking and payment methods along with advertising. And by using the same platform across the entire line, operators retain control and customers can communicate and network with one another.
The gamble for Telmap is that the operator-centric approach will trump the Nokia handset-side approach and the Google app-store strategy. The concept of leveraging operator advertising and promotional support is a powerful one. Google tried to take its Nexus One handset directly to the market only to knuckle under to operators in the past week.
The strength of the strategy is reflected in the tight relationships between Networks in Motion/Verizon and TeleNav and AT&T/T-Mobile/Sprint in the U.S. These partners are working on additional enhancements to the navigation and location platform which is producing millions of subscribers and hundreds of millions in revenue.
From a branding standpoint, location applications will come to define and differentiate the operators and a cross-platform solution makes it much easier to leverage and control. The attraction of the Telmap approach is already apparent as the company touts among its operator supporters: Vodafone, O2 Telefonica, Orange Group, Singtel Group, IUSACell, Pelephone, Cellcom, Mobilcom, and Boost Mobile, among others.
Of course, tiny Telmap is taking on industry giants in Nokia and Google and regardless of the strength of its strategy lacks the brand awareness and marketing clout of either of these companies. But the shift away from a consumer direct strategy to white label is probably the last best chance for Telmap to move into the front rank of LBS market leaders. And the company is investing heavily in ultra-local tie ins across the many countries around the world where it competes.
Wild cards remain in the battle for dominance of the location aware marketplace. One such wild card is the creation of superior traffic information from probe data. Google’s initial efforts to convert Droid phone user data is beginning to get attention and RIM (following its QNX acquisition) is likely to be the next company to bring a probe-enhanced traffic service to the market. Nokia (Navteq) and Apple will likely be next leaving Telmap to ponder whether it can convert its operator relationships into a superior traffic solution of its own.
With the smartphone navigation market ruled as it is by a confluence of advancing technology and consumer preferences, only two things are certain: change and Telmap’s determination not to raise the white flag.
http://bit.ly/cMw4f1 - Solid Q4 for PNDs, but 'Free' Navigation is Shaking Up Monetisation - John Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communication Service
http://bit.ly/bMeg36 - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities
http://bit.ly/8Yo4U6 - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities