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Vodafone's Wayfinder falls victim to the culture of free

Article by: Darren Griffin
Date: 12 Mar 2010

pocketgpsworld.comSad news today that swedish navigation company Wayfinder has closed for business.

Wayfinder was an early entrant in the off-board smartphone navigation market. Customers paid a subscription fee with maps being downloaded to compatible handsets over the air as required.

Vodafone clearly thought they saw an opportunity when they paid 20 million for the company on 2009. At that point location based services were seen as the next big earner but the culture of free has put paid to their plans.

The availability of free Google maps with navigation (in the US) and Nokia's decision to give away free OVI Maps on their handsets has seriously affected the market.

Vodafone struggled to find a workable proposition for selling subscriptions to a service that was being given away free and the end result is Wayfinder is no more.

Navigation looks set to be the next big battleground for free services. There ain' no such thing as a free lunch and you can be sure that those who are giving away data now are not doing it for altruistic reasons.

Once all the traditional companies have been killed off they'll slap a hefty fee on the maps and we'll all be crying into our cups of tea and wondering how we didn't see this coming.
Posted by MaFt on Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:19 pm Reply with quote

i'm not sure if google do the same (i would be VERY surprised if they didn't) but OVI Maps records your tracks and sends them to NavTeq - i.e. the 'business model' is solely to improve NavTeq's map coverage and to aid in getting new roads mapped quicker which then makes money from the other users of NavTeq maps as they will be able to sell more maps owing to them being improved. nokia owns navteq so they can do this with no 'direct' costs.

companies like wayfinder don't have this relationship with a map provider so therefore have to charge.

part of me honestly believes that the recent explosion in google streetview coverage is the first step to them doing their own maps for the uk (like they did in the states) so they can bring the free turn-by-turn to uk android phones. if there are no map companies to pay then the running costs are far less.

so, there you go wayfinder / vodafone, make your own maps and you're back in business! chop chop!


Posted by Darren on Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:04 pm Reply with quote

Given the less than enthusiastic reception Google's US maps have received I think they will really struggle to offer a mapset in Europe that is anywhere near comparable to Navteq/Tele Atlas.

The US is comparatively easy to map when compared with the network of roads and lanes Europe has, some many hundreds of years old.

My big concern here is that the pervasive culture of "it's on the web so it ought to be free" is percolating down to map data. The sooner we all understand that all data has costs and that good data needs to be paid for the better.

Already we are seeing the first moves by news organisations to reverse the trend and introduce pay to view solutions and I think it is well overdue.

We may well have free map data in future but you can be darn sure that there will be a hidden cost. Google don't do anything for free and Nokia didn't spend $8 billion on Navteq just to give the data away even on its own handsets.

Darren Griffin - Editor

Posted by Goober556 on Sat Mar 13, 2010 9:50 am Reply with quote

Whats wrong with free - funded by adverts, or free funded as a value add to selling handsets?

Nothing wrong with this that I can see. If people want to pay for premium products then all well and good. But the mass market is moving to free sat-nav for phones and I for one see it as a good thing.

Posted by Darren on Sat Mar 13, 2010 9:54 am Reply with quote

Where the funding is overt such as adverts then there is no issue. But where it is not then you are fooling yourself if you think it is free, there will be a catch.

What's wrong is it is not sustainable.

The mass market isn't 'choosing' it is being forced upon it. And when the premium sellers have all been killed off then Nokia will begin charging. They have an $8 billion bill to cover and the investors will want a return on that money and they won't get it from giving it away free on their handsets.

It is also stifling the market and reducing choice.

Darren Griffin - Editor

Posted by Goober556 on Sat Mar 13, 2010 10:05 am Reply with quote

I understand your scepticism but would still disagree. All mobile handset manufacturers have value add applications and sat-nav is just moving to become another one of them.

For now its just Nokia and Google but you can be sure others will follow. Once they do and it becomes the standard with consumers expecting free sat-nav on their phone then it really is hard to see the industry going back to a chargeable model. More likely money will be made from add-ons or premium products. I say this with some insight as I work in the mobile industry.

Posted by Darren on Sat Mar 13, 2010 10:29 am Reply with quote

But Nokia are the only ones who OWN a map manufacturer! What do all the other handset manufacturers do?

Others can't copy Nokia and Google unless they start making their own maps and Nokia sure as heck won't be giving the map data away free to competitors.

And as for the add-ons, free map, voice nav or guidance extra, POIs, more, traffic, more again. So it isn't free!

I too have some insight and I'll stand by my comment that this isn't sustainable. It will stifle competition and innovation and WILL damage the market both for smartphones and for other non-phone platforms as well.

Darren Griffin - Editor

Posted by Goober556 on Sat Mar 13, 2010 10:40 am Reply with quote

I wouldn't call it 'damage' but there will certainly be big change. Quite a few of the players will go as the market finds a new level.

Its not just Nokia though is it. Google are doing it and their maps app doesn't just run on Android so there is potential for that to run on all platforms. There also also rumours Apple may do their own maps (I say that with no insight). Who knows what others are working on?

Other handset manufacturers may choose to swallow the cost of the maps to keep up if Nokia/Google are seen to be taking significant market share.

Interesting days ahead.

Posted by Darren on Sat Mar 13, 2010 10:45 am Reply with quote

Goober556 Wrote:
Interesting days ahead.

No argument there Wink

Darren Griffin - Editor

Posted by MaFt on Sat Mar 13, 2010 12:02 pm Reply with quote

Goober556 Wrote:
I understand your scepticism but would still disagree. All mobile handset manufacturers have value add applications and sat-nav is just moving to become another one of them.

yes, other manufacturers have 'value-added apps' however, in general, the manufacturer provides the whole shebang. i.e. a camera is a value added feature - the cost of which is the camera part and the software to handle it - the software would be in-house but the camera part is likely to be bought from a 3rd-party.

in terms of navigation apps - the maps are the camera part and the navigation itself is the software. you wouldn't expect a lens manufacturer to give their parts away for free - the cost is built into the device price. if a phone wanted to upgrade to say an auto-focus lens then there is a cost to upgrade that. likewise if a map-set is included with a phone then chances are you have covered the cost in the cost of the phone - BUT if you want an update (which people will) then where does the cost come from? you CANNOT expect the likes of teleatlas and navteq to give away this data for free, the costs will need to be covered.

how do google and nokia do this? they essentially give you property that they own. how does a 3rd party do this? they charge a fee. if all the fee-driven apps a closed down then that leaves us with google and nokia - i for one do NOT think that this would be a good thing. hence our issues!

hope that's not babbling too much..!


Posted by peterc10 on Sat Mar 13, 2010 2:33 pm Reply with quote

MaFt Wrote:
if all the fee-driven apps a closed down then that leaves us with google and nokia - i for one do NOT think that this would be a good thing. hence our issues!

Don't forget Teleatlas owned by Tom Tom.

I predicted, on these very forums, well over a year ago (when free Google Nav was just a rumour) that PNDs would be caught in a pincer movement between "free" built in car sat navs and "free" phone apps. I have seen absolutely nothing to change my mind on that since and a lot to bolster that belief.

At the time I expressed absolute amazement at TT's decision to effectively abandon the mobile phone market when it failed to support TTN7. At that time they had not brought out their iphone app. The success of that when it did come up only proves my point - and yet still no TTN for WM or Android. It seems that TT still believe their future is in the high added value of supplying PNDs

So what's the betting that in a year or two's time there will be a bidding war between the phone makers and airtime suppliers to buy a severely weakened TT. They will all be desperate to get hold of Teleatlas

Let's not forget that we are all "sat nav geeks" here when we point out that PNDs are better. For the average joe public a "free" app on a phone he has got anyway (so no extra layout) is more than good enough for what he needs. It will hold his hand and tell him how to get from A to B, and even warn him of (some) cameras - job done.

The final proof of my theory is that DennisN has just got himself an iphone instead of (yet) another PND Very Happy

HTC Sensation
Sygic GPS for Europe (No more TT "support"!)
Copilot for USA
Bury CC9060 bluetooth car kit & Brodit mount

Posted by robertn on Mon Mar 15, 2010 2:47 am Reply with quote

Years ago I though the valuable asset in the PND/Navigation market was the map data. The price of map upgrades proves this is still true today - in the commercial world. Navtech and TA did not care, and did not need to care who won the sales battle. Whoever it was (Garmin, Tomtom, Navman, Mio or Acheme) , they got a slice of the pie, a big fat juicy slice of a very big pie.

Consider what it takes to maintain a good map dataset, A lot of widely distributed manpower to quickly get changes to roads and errors in the data updates identified and into the data set, then a fast cheap method to distribute this to those that need it - all very expensive with traditional business models.
There is a model that has the ability to do all of this cheaply- A lot of widely distributed manpower avalible, easy access to updates and everything else that goes with it - Opensource

To update an open source map, you need a internet access, and a Small mount of common sense and the desire to do it. You don't need to be a rockey scientest. A working GPS with a track of the update makes it easier, but is not required.
I have corrected the street and walkway data in OpenStreet maps for my town. Mostly minor errors, a couple of major ones such as roads shown as connected when there a fences etc.
I would say the roads within 4km of my home are as accurate on Open Streetmaps as any commercial offering. (Apart from not having a life, I run 8miles a few times a week, so use this as a chance to checkout and if needed , correct the map data.)
Now if only someone would do that every couple of miles....

So what are the commercial guys doing giving there data away? Heading off the open source community by removing the "desire" for people to update maps is my guess. Opensource has the ability to destroy the value of the data - the only real asset that TA and Navtech have. They need to shut it down to stay alive. Opensource may not be as good, but if it's free and good enough, will enough people be prepared to pay for commercial maps to make it a worth while business? Opensource may not be good enough today, but if the commercial sector wait till it is good enough, it will be too late.

I use open source maping and navigation on my Cell phone - it works (sort of, most of the time). Give it a couple more years and it will be good enough for ma and pa.

Gets pushed around by Thomas

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