On 14th December 2011 location based service (LBS) provider TeleNav announced the availability of its HTML5 browser based GPS navigation service for a limited number of developers. The service will enable bricks and mortar retailers in the US to integrate navigation features onto its mobile website. Many retailers provide a map of business location on their websites, but this goes a stage further, allowing consumers with GPS enabled phones to access voice-guided directions to the merchant without needing to fire up a separate application. TeleNav aims to provide this capability for free, and there appears to be few barriers to entry for retailers.
Google employed a similar approach on the fixed internet, by making static maps available to almost anyone to embed onto websites for free. Google encouraged these users to build services on top of its maps. This free map strategy significantly boosted the presence and use of Google Maps online.
By making navigation available for free TeleNav aims to drive the availability of both its maps and voice navigation service on the mobile web, supplanting Google and other online map providers like Microsoft/ Nokia. With mobile generating 10% of website traffic for some retailers providing navigation in addition to maps for free is likely to be a no brainer! Moving forward, I expect TeleNav will aim to monetize free navigation in a similar manner to Google. Google has segmented the market and only charges businesses leveraging Google Map APIs within a pay wall environment, for business-to-business use, or within the confines of an intranet.
Although this is undoubtedly a smart move by TeleNav, I expect it will be unlikely to replace the adoption of Google Maps or Nokia Maps APIs by businesses:
Both Google and Nokia will likely monitor the speed at which TeleNav’s free map and navigation services take off, and respond by replicating the offer.
Furthermore, although HTML5 supports offline mode, which allows an application to cache data for use when the handset is not connected to the network, I’m certain the user experience is likely to be compromised. That is exactly what this limited trial will aim to tease out!