News & Trends
Where It’s At Mapping Battle Highlights New Era of Revenue and Development Models Greg Goth
n the surface, the well-publicized errors in the Apple Maps application launch in September 2012 put the spotlight on a rare stumble for a company renowned for historically providing elegant and functional technology. Secondarily, it offered industry observers an opportunity to contrast the two industry leaders in “eyeballs” accessing digital maps, Apple and Google. Taken more in depth, however, the Apple Maps issue can also provide an impetus for exploring both mobile apps’ enterprise potential and a view toward an incredibly wide range of development models. Veteran industry observers say we’re at the very dawn of a mobiledominated Internet in which geolocation and mapping platforms will drive ever-increasing profits — and spending. For the rising generation of young adults, says Mike Dobson, former chief technologist for Rand McNally and current president of consultancy TeleMapics, “There is a fundamental focus on ‘It’s about me.’ People want their media focused on them. When they think about their everyday experience, it is quite reasonably ‘about me,’ and the one thing about ‘me’ that is a constant truism is location. So media creators need to focus on location — what’s around me, what the opportunities are for me. I need to know where I might shop or have a meal or meet friends.” In consequence, Dobson says, this fabric of location and geography is rising to the forefront of almost every Internet application, “because there are ver y few things any of us do that aren’t somehow tied to location.” If analyst forecasts are anywhere close to correct, the commercial potential for mobile geolocation is immense. According to Wokingham, UK-based research firm MobileSquared, the number of mobile device users in Europe who used a mobile mapping service rose from 12.5 million to 35.4 million between February 2009 and February 2011. The firm also predicts JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2013
that mobile advertising in the US will more than triple between 2011 and 2014, from US$1.4 billion to $5.1 billion, and that geolocation as an accelerant of mobile ad spending will skyrocket to nearly $905 million in 2014, compared to $162.7 million in 2011. Through the potential of mobile location and mapping, Dobson says, “We are fundamentally changing the nature of what we can do, what we can know, and what we can present about places. The effect is [to help] reduce the friction of distance. You are able to get to places easier, you know more places, and I think that, culturally, has a chance to be a game changer.” For these forecasts to come close, however, the maps that are the base of these mobile location services must be accurate. The intriguing questions surrounding the overall development of the mapping ecosystem include, What existing strength — such as Google’s unparalleled amount of data versus Apple’s reputation for user-friendly hardware and brand loyalty among users — might emerge as the dominant factor in driving market share? To what extent will “boots on the ground” development methodologies have to complement algorithmic technologies? Given the immense amount of publicly available data, will open source efforts such as OpenStreetMap (OSM) ever provide a mapping equivalent of Linux, driving an OSS ecosystem of geolocation services? And, is there an opportunity for mapping applications on top of existing enterprise platforms to any market-making extent?
Everybody in the Pool
In the weeks following the Apple Maps fiasco (which resulted in an open letter of apology from CEO Tim Cook and was likely the reason for the departure of Scott Forstall, the leader of Apple’s iOS efforts), numerous players in the technology industry have scrambled to carve out some kind of niche in the “map app” game. Within days of each
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Published by the IEEE Computer Society